In Response: This isn't politics; face coverings save lives

Duluth musician Gaelynn Lea. (File / News Tribune)

I am so glad the News Tribune decided to report on the discussion about making masks required indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope the June 18 article — “ Duluth mayor tells disability rights advocate: No citywide mask requirement coming ” — will motivate others to contact Mayor Emily Larson (heck, even Gov. Tim Walz!) if they also want to see masks being required to be worn indoors to protect disabled, elderly, black, and brown community members. Our voices are stronger together!

But I want to clarify: The other lady interviewed in the article with breathing issues would not be required to wear a mask under the ordinance language I proposed, which was taken verbatim from the current Minneapolis mask ordinance. The language reads: "Any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face covering in accordance with CDC guidance when in indoor spaces of public accommodation."

For further clarification, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's office was reported in the May 26 Star Tribune stating that this exemption includes people with breathing and respiratory problems.

“We won’t require people to have doctor’s notes on them, but we trust staff to use their discretion if there’s a question about medical exceptions,” Frey spokesman Darwin Forsyth said.

This is not politics. It's human rights. It's not sweeping reform. It's a science-based response to a deadly pandemic. It's not an "end-of-the-pendulum" policy. It's a temporary mask policy, and it will save lives. It's that simple.


It's really just that simple.

Why else should we make masks required? To make it easier and less stressful for everyone to comply with health guidelines. For those who want to do the right thing but are uncomfortable sticking out (in true Minnesota fashion), making masks mandatory would take away the stigma of wearing a mask and allow people to do their part simply because it's the rule of law (like not smoking indoors or speeding!) and not because they feel expected to take a political or personal stand. Mask-wearing would become the societal norm and not the visible (and sometimes uncomfortable) exception.

Aside from the human-rights and public-safety perspective, it is also worth noting that our economy will likely fare better in the long run if we take minor, inobtrusive steps now to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Requiring masks in indoor public establishments would be an easy and effective step to take now rather than waiting until more needless deaths occur and rising case numbers force another business shutdown or stay-at-home order.

We all want a safe, operational, and prosperous Minnesota. Masks are a clear way to get us there.

Gaelynn Lea of Duluth is a musician, public speaker, and advocate for disability rights. Find her online at .

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