AFSCME Council 5 Supports Call for Statewide Mask Policy

July 14, 2020
In recent days, the Minnesota Department of Health has reported a large spike in positive COVID-19 cases, specifically over 800 new cases in a 24-hour period, the greatest daily spike we have seen in roughly 7 weeks. 23 states as well as city councils and mayors around our state are instituting mandatory mask policies for residents to adhere to in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The cities of Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, Edina, Winona, as well as Metropolitan State University, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and other higher education institutions have instituted such policies to protect public health. Our staff, representing more than 43,000 state, county, and municipal employees, have been tele-working successfully since March in order to protect our fellow co-workers, members, friends and family, and our communities. Any worker in our state who cannot tele-work and are on our front lines -correctional officers, grocery store workers, nurses, doctors, general maintenance workers, and others have always been the backbone of our society and economy; They demand safe and healthy communities and all of us wearing a mask when we are in public moves us towards these goals.

Masks are not political, their use is based on science. Both medical and non-medical grade masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 that has devastated our communities, families, workplaces, economy, and sense of normalcy. Outbreaks in our state prisons, group homes, long-term care facilities, food processing plants, and every Minnesota county are posing significant mental and physical challenges to our public and private sector workforce. One clear plan (of many) to slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus is to issue a statewide mandatory mask policy while in public to protect workers, our communities, clients and our most vulnerable. We would support this policy and thank Governor Walz for his continued leadership!

Our brothers and sisters in labor have all expressed our outrage by the federal government’s clear inaction when it comes to the production and distribution of personal protective equipment. When we all wear a mask when we are in public we can again reduce the number of positive cases throughout our state and improve public health. This will protect all Minnesotans.

When we all wear masks to slow the virus' transmission and it is under control, we are fully confident that working people will meet the challenge of rebuilding our economy and systems rooted in social, racial, and economic justice.

In solidarity, 

Julie Bleyhl

Executive Director