Letter to the Editor about Proposed Mask Ordinance


I am so glad that Duluth News Tribune reporter Brady Slater decided to cover the discussion about making masks required indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope his article will motivate others to contact Mayor Emily Larson (heck, even Governor Tim Walz!) if they also want to see masks be worn indoors to protect disabled, elderly, Black and Brown community members… Our voices are stronger together!

But I want to clarify, the other lady they interviewed in this article with breathing issues (Kelley Minor) would NOT be required to wear a mask according to the ordinance language I proposed, which was taken verbatim from the current Minneapolis Mask Ordinance:

“Any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face covering in accordance with CDC guidance when in indoor spaces of public accommodation.”

For further clarification, Mayor Frey’s office was reported in the May 26th Star Tribune that this mask exemption includes people with breathing and respiratory problems: “We won’t require people to have doctor’s notes on them, but we trust staff to use their discretion if there’s a question about medical exceptions,” said spokesman Darwin Forsyth.

This is not politics. It’s Human Rights. It’s not sweeping reform. It’s a science-based response to a deadly pandemic. It’s not an “end-of-the-pendulum” policy. It’s a temporary mask policy, and it will save lives. It’s that simple.

It’s really just that simple.

Why else should we make masks required? To make it easier and less stressful for everyone to comply with health guidelines! For those who want to do the right thing but are uncomfortable sticking out (in true Minnesota fashion), making masks mandatory would take away their stigma and allow people to do their part simply because it’s the rule of law (like not smoking indoors or speeding!) and not because they feel expected to take a political or personal stand. Mask-wearing would become the societal norm, and not the visible (and sometimes uncomfortable) exception.

Aside from the Human Rights and public safety perspective, it is also worth noting that our economy will likely fare better in the long run if we take minor, unobtrusive steps now to slow the spread of COVID-19. Requiring masks in indoor public establishments would be an easy and effective step to take NOW rather than waiting until more needless deaths occur and rising case numbers force another business shutdown / stay-at-home order.

We all want a safe, operational and prosperous Minnesota. Masks are the clear way to get us there.


Gaelynn Lea
Musician & Public Speaker

Author: violinscratches

Gaelynn Lea is a musician and public speaker from Duluth, MN. She is passionate about disability advocacy, personal growth, and authentic living. She was the winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest in March 2016.