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Mayo Clinic looking for participants in survey about wearing masks

Mayo Clinic is conducting a survey to find out how people in southeastern Minnesota feel about wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The survey opened last week and is open to people 18 and older who live in southeastern Minnesota, including in Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties.

It is expected to take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Michelle Steffens, a registered nurse who is part of the Mayo Clinic task force regarding literature for COVID-19, said the idea for the survey originated in April. At that time, Gov. Tim Walz had not yet passed a mandate requiring people to wear face masks in indoor businesses and indoor public settings.

“The mask portion is a very novel concept within the United States,” Steffens said. “It seemed to be worth exploring what was motivating people to wear the masks and what was closing them off to it.”

Dr. Jean Fox, another member of the task force, said while hand-washing has been readily accepted as a precaution to take against COVID-19, for some reason mask-wearing has become politicized, and they wanted to find out why that was the case.

The survey looks at under what circumstances people would be willing to wear a mask, what their social risk factors and health conditions are, and if there are barriers that keep them from wearing one.

“We’re reaching out to folks and saying, ‘We hear you, and we want to know your thoughts,'” Steffens said.

The initial plan was for the survey to run two weeks, but that may be extended to translate the survey into the Somali language, she said. The survey is presently available in English and Spanish.

When the survey is complete, they hope to use the information to come up with ways to help the community prevent the spread of the virus — whether that’s through campaigning to remove the stigma of wearing masks or making masks more accessible in areas where they are not as readily available, Fox said.

The women said so far they have had good participation, and they hope people will continue filling out the survey, especially in the more diverse communities.

Fox said one message she wants to get across is about the role of masks for those who think that wearing them infringes on their rights.

“I think there’s some misunderstanding that your mask protects you and my mask protects me,” she said. “I’m not wearing a mask to protect myself. I’m wearing a mask to protect those around me. There’s a lot of people who don’t understand the concept.”

When people choose to smoke or to ride in a car without a seat belt, they are impacting themselves, she said. But when they choose to go out to a restaurant or bar, or another public place, and choose not to wear a mask, that person is impacting the health of many others.

Steffens said it is important that people find common ground and unite in an effort to keep the community safe, despite the different beliefs people have.

The survey can be found online at https://www.mayo.edu/research/mask-survey.

Fox said if people have questions about the study or need help filling it out, they can contact MaskSurvey@mayo.edu or 507-266-1238.