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Masks: NUMC urges their use

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wore his buffalo plaid cloth mask during questions at a press conference to announce statewide mask mandate Wednesday, July 22, 2020, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)

NEW ULM — As of July 25, Minnesotans are required by a mandate from Governor Tim Walz to wear a face-covering in all public indoor spaces and businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since Wednesday’s announcement from the Governor, the New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) has fielded numerous calls from people with questions about the mask mandate and some seeking exemption for medical grounds. NUMC is attempting to answer mask related questions and clarify the situation.

Family medical care physician Dr. Bryana Andert said NUMC supports the mask requirement. “We do believe the mask mandate is good. It will slow the spread of the virus,” Andert said. If Minnesotans follow the masking protocol, it could allow other places to reopen, including the schools this fall.

Andert said a common complaint of the mask is people are losing basic freedom when forced to wear one, but she argued that if the spread of COVID is halted, people could regain some of the personal freedoms lost to this pandemic.

“It is really about preventing the spread of COVID,” she said. The mask does offer some protection to the wearer, but the real purpose of wearing the mask is to prevent others from getting sick.

For the masks to work, it must cover the nose and mouth of a person to catch droplets.

Andert said a surgical style mask would be ideal, but might not always be available. Any time of cloth covering would help prevent the spread of the virus, including bandanas or neckerchiefs.

Cloth masks can be reused but should be washed after used daily.

Andert addressed the myths connected to masks. A common concern is a mask blocks too much oxygen, but Andert said the human body receives adequate oxygen from a mask.

“A mask can be hot and stuffy, but this does not equate to a lack of oxygen,” she said.

The concern about breathing in carbon dioxide is also a myth. Carbon dioxide particles are small enough to get through the mask, but droplets will be caught.

The mask mandate does have exemptions for children. Children under age 2 years must not wear face coverings and Children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old are not required to wear face coverings but are encouraged to wear a face-covering in public. For adults, mask exemptions will be limited.

“The reality is that across the board, it will be rare for exemptions,” Andert said.

Even people with lung-related conditions are unlikely to be exempt. People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) would not be exempt. Andert said a pulmonologist would still require a patient with these conditions to wear a mask. She said, “People with these conditions are at greater risk if they contract the virus.”

Some individuals have anxiety involved with wearing a mask. Physicians have recommending protocols for improving anxiety such as practicing wearing the mask for short periods and breathing techniques.

NUMC is expecting to continue fielding calls about the mask. Anyone with mask concerns is encouraged to talk with their physician or provider.

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