Congratulations to the city of Duluth and Duluthians on the approval of the indoor mask resolution (“Duluth City Council approves mask ordinance,” July 13). Health professionals are strong advocates of this rule, and here are five reasons why.

Science: As scientists and doctors learn more about COVID-19, it has become increasingly clear that physical distancing, wearing a mask, and handwashing are the three actions that best prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Minnesota Department of Health now recommend masks in public places. This is also why laws about universal masking are becoming more common nationwide, in more than 20 states now.

Economy: If infection rates grow, Duluth may be forced to return to lockdown conditions, which would devastate our economy. Requiring masks in public may help us keep our infection rates low enough to avoid lockdown. One recent model — with authors from universities in Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, England — predicts that if 80% of us wore masks in public it would be more effective than a strict lockdown. Requiring masks may also allow us to remain open to tourists, many of whom come from places with higher infection rates than we are currently experiencing. That makes them more likely to be carriers of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Humility: Even people with no symptoms can have COVID-19 and spread it to others. Asymptomatic people have tested positive here in Duluth, just as they have worldwide. Studies have shown that people may be most contagious just before they actually get sick with COVID-19, since this is when they have the most virus in their noses and mouths.

Humanity: Wearing a mask protects those around you more than it protects you. That makes it an act of kindness. The virus is released into the air not just by coughing but also by talking and breathing. Even if people around us appear healthy, they may be fighting cancer or caring for elderly parents. Wearing a mask helps protect these high-risk people, as well as everyone else.

And community health: Minnesotans have done amazing work to flatten our COVID-19 disease curve. We thank you for your dedication to physical distancing and to mask-wearing. This good work has bought us time to prepare our community and our hospitals for what may come. However, we are worried about what our hospitals — and our lives — might be like soon if Northland residents do not continue to do our best to prevent this disease from taking hold in our community.

For all this, we strongly support the Duluth City Council’s approval of the indoor mask rule for the safety of Duluthians and visitors.

Dr. Andrea Boehland is the emergency department section chair for Essentia Health in Duluth.



ABOUT THIS COLUMN: This commentary was signed by 58 additional health professionals from Essentia and St. Luke’s before being submitted to the News Tribune.

“Signatories of this letter come from both ends of the political spectrum, as well as both hospitals in Duluth, and include Essentia’s section and division chairs of emergency medicine; Essentia’s section and division chairs of hospitalist internal medicine; and physician leaders in infectious disease, quality, toxicology, critical care medicine and ethics,” Dr. Boehland wrote. “Signatories also include St. Luke’s leadership, emergency department medical director, emergency medicine physicians and infectious disease experts. Most of us have never written a letter to the editor before. We have done so now because we want Duluthians to understand our expert opinion. To us, this issue is both important and urgent.”

Those who signed were:

Dr. Amanda Noska, Infectious Disease, Essentia Health

Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, Infectious Disease, Essentia Health

Dr. Sara Lund, Infectious Disease, St. Luke’s

Dr. Andrew Thompson, Infectious Disease, St. Luke’s

Dr. Harmony Tyner, Infectious Disease, St. Luke’s

Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, Chief Medical Officer, St. Luke’s

Dr. Amery Robinson, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Adam Riutta, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Aaron Hegg, Critical Care, Essentia Health

Dr. Dawn Drotar, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Melissa Simonson, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Dean Fox, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Eric Swanson, Critical Care, Essentia Health

Dr. Jeff Lyon, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Christopher Delp, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Lisa Roazen, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Gregg Anderson, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Arndt Braaten, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Blake Collison, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Karen Flynn, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Juhn Han, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Peter Stenehjem, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Daniel Freeman, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Michael Stowman, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Jason Hansen, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. John Holst, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Francis Nelson, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Melissa Rosas, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Elisabeth Bilden, Toxicology, Essentia Health

Dr. Peter Chase, Toxicology, Essentia Health

Dr. Tony Hoff, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Kristi Tshilumba, Critical Care, Essentia Health

Dr. Dave Pipho, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Jeff Adams, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Peter Coenen, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Leslie Rutherford, Emergency Medicine St. Luke’s

Dr. Amanda Carlson, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Patrick O’Brien, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Patrick Riley, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Casey Litchke, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Dan Wolbrink, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Ahmad Hazem, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Cynthia Lonneman, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Donna Ceglar, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Dr. Jonathan Shultz, Emergency Medicine, St. Luke’s

Julie Strickland, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Lisa Arvold, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Julie Pearce, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Peter Aas, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Brent Ekstrom, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Jenna Coldwell, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Brooke Settergren, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Angela McAllister, Ophthalmology, Essentia Health

Dr. Jaidev Bhoopal, Critical Care, Essentia Health

Dr. Gunther Wagoner, Internal Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Karen Lushine, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Dr. Al Hsiao, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health

Kadi Weyandt, Emergency Medicine, Essentia Health