St. Louis County’s Size, Local Governments Within County Make It Unlikely For Mask Mandate
The only mask mandate within the county has been inside county buildings.
DULUTH, Minn. — St. Louis County’s Public Health Director, Amy Westbrook, spoke in support of Duluth’s mask mandate Thursday, and the county released a statement on its take on a possible county wide mask mandate.
Westbrook, along with Essentia’s Chief Medical Officer, pointed to growing concerns over hospitalization rates. Out of the 342 hospital beds at Essentia in Duluth, 58 have COVID and 16 of those patients are in the ICU. Essentia has 45 total ICU beds, but officials say those open beds can quickly fill up at any moment, and there’s a continued staffing challenge.
“The CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health recommend that we all mask up, universally mask up when our community rates are as high as 50 per 100,000 cases over a 7 day average, in Duluth specifically, we are about 15 times higher than that so we strongly encourage everyone to wear masks across the county,” Westbrook said.
As of now, St. Louis County does not have any immediate plans for a county wide mandate other than a mandate within its county buildings, as has been the case since the pandemic started.
The county’s communications manager, Dana Kazel, released the following statement to FOX 21 that pointed to the differences between Duluth and the ‘geographically large’ county.
St. Louis County has required masks inside county buildings since last summer when we entered the high transmission rate category per CDC definition. Case rates vary widely across the county, as geographically large as we are. Currently, the Duluth area is seeing a much higher rate of transmission than elsewhere in the county.
We respect the authority of local jurisdictions of government within our county to make their own decisions within their communities, and remain committed to our role, which is to provide local data and interpret CDC and MDH guidance when requested. St. Louis County continues to urge people to follow the layered mitigation approach of getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks and social distancing, getting tested and staying home when sick.
To highlight what Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said, “We all have a responsibility to follow public health recommendations to protect our community’s health and to protect healthcare systems and long-term care facilities, which continue to be extremely strained in this pandemic.”
Third District County Commissioner Ashley Grimm released the following statement:
I will be looking into ways to support compliance and increase mask wearing in public, especially N95 and KN95 masks which have been shown to be much more effective at stopping the spread. We also need to model this in our own workplaces. I have requested county staff and administration to supply employees with N95 masks and offer even more flexibility to work remotely. Each of us has someone we love with health factors that put them at risk. Each of has a family member who could be impacted by a stroke, heart attack or car accident and not be able to get into an ICU bed. Wearing a quality mask is a small price to pay. I wish it were as easy as a mask mandate, but it’s not, and we need to find a way to come together as a community.
Second District County Commissioner Patrick Boyle released the following statement:
My district is under the city’s mandate. If one of the 4 Commissioners outside of Duluth wanted the mask mandate I would be supportive.