To wear a mask or not to wear a mask: That is the question facing people when they go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health officials recommend people wear masks when out in public to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is passed from person to person via droplets. However, it isn’t mandatory that people in Wisconsin cover their faces.

“Wearing face masks and washing their hands or carrying hand sanitizer are effective strategies for people to reduce their risk of contracting the disease when going out in public,” said Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi. “I encourage people to take care of themselves and their families by taking responsibility for their health.”

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Some spaces, like Menards, have made wearing a mask a must. Starting Friday, May 1, a store employee stood at the entrance to the Menards stores in Superior and Duluth stopping anyone without a mask. Customers are given the option to purchase one for $1 or leave the store.

Universal masking of staff and patients is being implemented at Essentia-St. Mary’s of Superior, as well. According to Kim Pearson, administrator of the Superior campus and Wisconsin regional clinics, the practice has been in place since April 20 and includes office staff and other employees who are not directly involved in patient care.

The Superior facility goes through about 100 masks a day, she said. The masks are given to patients as part of the screening process, which includes a list of 11 questions and a temperature check. Patients and visitors, however, are encouraged to bring their own masks when possible.

Essentia Health and St. Luke’s last week announced the “Land of 10,000 Masks” campaign to solicit donations of homemade cloth masks for patients and staff. Step-by-step instructions for preferred mask designs can be found at essentiahealth.org/masks and slhduluth.com/masks.

Masks can be dropped off at:

  • Essentia Health-Miller Hill Health Plaza, 1600 Miller Trunk Highway, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  • St. Luke’s Foundation, Northland Medical Center, 1000 E. First St., Suite 102, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  • VIP Pizza-Superior, 1201 Tower Ave., from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

“It has been so inspiring to see how our community has stepped up to help one another during these challenging times,” said Catherine Carter Huber, executive director of the St. Luke’s Foundation. “We really can’t thank everyone enough for the outpouring of support they’ve shown us.”

The Duluth News Tribune contributed to this report.

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