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Itasca County, Superior encouraging mask use as COVID-19 cases rise

Updated: July 09, 2020 06:11 PM

Northland communities are urging the public to wear face masks as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Some of those communities urging mask use are Superior and Itasca County.

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Mayor Jim Paine said the recent outbreak in Superior bars is concerning. As a result, Paine is exploring a mask requirement and is looking at what other cities are doing.

"We're looking at meaningful enforcement mechanisms but that also aren't too burdensome. We're not looking to persecute people or punish them or shame them, we're looking to get more people wearing masks. We're also looking to support those businesses that want help in enforcing a mask requirement," said Paine.

Paine said he has heard support from community members and businesses about a mask requirement and said COVID-19 is a public health and safety issue.

"Regardless of what the City of Superior does, we strongly encourage all citizens to wear masks when they are out in public," said Paine.

Paine said he hopes to get a committee meeting together sometime next week in order to consider the requirement as early as the next city council meeting. As of Thursday, Douglas County has 48 COVID-19 cases.

Although Itasca County is not considering a mask ordinance for now, they are strongly encouraging mask use.

Itasca leaders gave an update on COVID-19 cases during the Itasca County virtual briefing Thursday morning.

 As of Thursday, leaders say Itasca County has 68 residents who have tested positive to COVID-19. This is an additional four cases from their last update on July 6. There remains 12 total deaths from COVID-19.

The case age ranges are from six to 94. Leaders said they know there are cases on their list that have ties to other counties, communities and other states. At least five positives that were tested were visiting Itasca County but reside elsewhere.

Leaders say there is more discussion happening locally about wearing face masks and said as early as next week, more guidance on adherence to the governor's orders will be available and they plan on discussing masking more with health panelists.

"We encourage our community members and those that visit our community to continue to be safe. Practice social distancing from persons outside your household, mask in public spaces, wash your hands with soap and water frequently, cover your cough and sneezes and stay home when you are ill," said Kelly Chandler, department manager of Itasca County Public Health.

Dr. Dan Soular, vice president of medical affairs and family medicine physician of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, touched on misconceptions and some controversies surrounding wearing masks.

"Estimates would say if we all wore masks when we were out in public we would likely reduce transmission by 50 percent," said Soular.

Soular also answered questions regarding face masks for those with a respiratory disease. He said recent studies show no affect.

"There has not been one single study that says your oxygen levels decrease or your carbon dioxide levels increase by wearing a mask. We're just really trying to push that and make sure people get accurate information because that's an important part of the reason to wear that mask," said Soular.

The City of Duluth is also considering a mask ordinance. The city council will vote on this at their upcoming meeting Monday, July 13.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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