GOP lawmaker emails House colleagues, staff to incorrectly argue masks aren’t effective

    State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsbrug

    It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 first detected in China, but a pair of Republican lawmakers still appear confused about how the virus spreads. 

    After the Minnesota House adopted a rule requiring face coverings on the floor, state Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, penned an email to all of his House colleagues and staff quibbling with the science behind face coverings. 

    “COVID can only be transferred through direct exchange of bodily fluids,” he wrote in an email obtained by the Reformer. He also argued that the only masks effective in preventing the transmission of the virus are N-95 masks that are fitted properly. 

    “Cloth masks do little for protection of any sort,” he argued. 

    In fact, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say COVID-19 spreads through a few ways, including airborne transmission and through droplet transmission. 

    “Droplet transmission is infection spread through exposure to virus-containing respiratory droplets (i.e., larger and smaller droplets and particles) exhaled by an infectious person,” the CDC writes. 

    Health experts say other methods include contact transmission, i.e. shaking hands with an infected person, as well as airborne transmission, which is when virus-laden droplets and particles stay suspended in the air over long distances.

    Miller said he based his claims on conversations with “numerous health officials” and criticized the “steel hand of government” for imposing rules requiring masks. He also criticized the lack of other measures, suggesting that temperature checks should be taken.

    In a reply-all, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, wrote: “If you would like to require a temperature check at the beginning of floor sessions, please let me know and we can consider adding that requirement to House policy.”

    He also said: “House leadership will continue to prioritize the health and safety of members, staff and others who work at the Capitol.”

    His views found a receptive audience in the Minnesota Senate, which on Thursday voted down a similar effort to require face coverings on the Senate floor.  

    State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, argued incorrectly on Thursday that masks do little to prevent the spread, citing Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

    Osterholm has since clarified his remarks in support of masks and has warned his past remarks should not be cited to argue against masks. 

    A call placed to Miller seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.