Hospitals Talk About Reasoning Behind Endorsing Now-Failed Duluth Mask Mandate

DULUTH, Minn. — Essentia Health and St. Luke’s had a united front when it came to endorsing the now-failed mask mandate proposal that went up for a vote on Monday during Duluth city council’s meeting.

One Essentia doctor who works in the emergency department says she knows a new possible mask mandate seems sudden, but explained that hospital beds are filling up quickly and health care workers are absolutely worn out.

While COVID can spread in family homes and similar settings, she tells us that they would at least like the community transmission to slow down in places like stores and public places, as virus particles can hang in the air for hours.

“What I can say is that people are getting infected much more than they have before, and honestly, truly, people don’t know where they caught it,” Dr. Andie Boehland, an Essentia emergency medicine physician, said.  “And it’s not people who have risky behaviors who are catching it primarily even, so we assume it’s running errands, we assume it’s just out in the community and that’s one of the reasons that a mask mandate to keep germs in with a respiratory illness would help.”

Dr. Boehland adds that pediatric cases are also rising in hospitals, so she encourages schools not to drop their mask requirements yet.

Meanwhile a St. Luke’s doctor says a mandate that lasts until rate of infections go down might be one of the only ways to get a hold on community transmission.

“Outside of the hospital I’m disappointed in most community settings with the lack of masking,” Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious disease physician at St. Luke’s, said. “If we had amazing compliance with a recommendation, I don’t think we’d need a mandate. But based on the current state of the world mandates tend to work better at getting people to do the right thing.”

Both Essentia and St. Luke’s wrote a joint letter to council supporting the proposed mandate.

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