Osterholm: 'Minneapolis mask mandate could do more harm than good'

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A new mask-mandate in Minneapolis could do more harm than good according to one infectious disease expert.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of infectious disease for the University of Minnesota, says the science has shown that cloth or surgical masks do not fully protect someone against COVID-19.

"What are you going to mandate next if there's no science data that says this is a major issue?" Osterholm told WCCO Radio's Chad Hartman on Friday. "If people want to wear them, they should wear them. I worry that any benefit that could come from those will become undone by people believing they have more protection than they do. In the end, we do more harm than good."

The mask-mandate in Minneapolis takes effect on May 26 and requires masks to be worn at “indoor places of public accommodation” in Minneapolis. Listed in Mayor Jacob Frey’s latest emergency regulation are retail stores, hotels, government buildings, schools, recreational facilities and service centers. It applies to everyone over the age of 2 to “reduce the risk of community spread.”

Dr. Osterholm says he intends to stick by what science data shows.

"Do not count on [masks> protecting you, if you do, and that means protecting those around you," he said. "That's the message we have to get out."

Osterholm, who was a guest of WCCO's Chad Hartman, has repeatedly said the only masks that fully protect people from the virus are N-95 respirators, and that those must be preserved for health care workers.