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Minnesota's governor says staying home works and needs to continue

Apr 09, 2020 05:27AM ● By Editor
Gov. Tim Walz provides an update on the state's next steps to respond to COVID-19 during a news conference on Wednesday. Walz is extending Minnesota's stay-at-home order until May 4 as the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state continues to rise. Photo: Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP, Pool

By Matt Sepic of MPR News - April 9 2020


As expected, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has extended his stay-at-home order an additional 24 days. It means bars and restaurants will remain takeout-only until May 4, and other businesses considered nonessential must remain closed.

Walz’s initial two-week order was due to expire Friday at 5 p.m. Saying “we’ve flattened the curve more than any other state,” the DFL governor urged Minnesotans not to become complacent over time.

“It could all go sideways very quickly if we don’t continue. So, these sacrifices are working. The only vaccine we have is social distancing right now — what you’re doing. We’re proving that it works,” Walz said at a news conference in St. Paul limited to a small group of reporters, but carried on television and YouTube.

Walz recently ended two weeks in isolation at the governor’s residence after a member of his security detail tested positive for the coronavirus.

Walz said predictive modeling indicates social distancing continues to push the period of peak demand for intensive care unit beds further into the future. Between mid-May and mid-July, the state could need anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 ICU beds. There are 1,147 now, though another 1,098 could be made ready within 24 hours.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said staying home buys valuable time for hospitals to prepare even more ICU capacity and for labs to expand coronavirus testing.

“We have made some progress. It’s important that we sustain it. But we do know that the peak is still going to come,” Malcolm said. “We know there’s a lot of disease in our state that has yet to show up in our case counts and unfortunately in the rates of death. But we have started from a good position and we need to keep up the good work.”

Even as he extended the stay-at-home order, Walz made some adjustments to the activities that can resume. The revised directive allows craft stores to distribute supplies for homemade face masks. Business owners will have some flexibility to manage inventory. Landscapers can work again.

That’s welcome news for Ryan Foudray, CEO of St. Paul-based Prescription Landscape. The company’s 200 employees had been limited to critical work.

“We had a tree go down at a hospital the other day that was blocking an entrance. We had to go take care of that. So, we had a few things going on, but we probably only had about a third of our employees working,” he said.

Foudray said his crews are returning to full strength, but things are changing to promote social distancing. It’ll be just two workers to a truck for a while instead of the usual three or four.

GOP leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate joined with their DFL counterparts in support of the governor’s measure. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka welcomed Walz’s move to reopen some businesses.

State Rep. Pat Garofalo agrees that the stay-at-home order is producing results and should continue. But the Republican from Farmington, Minn., countered the fact that hospital stays are shorter and deaths fewer than first predicted means the governor should give Minnesotans a bit more leeway.

“If you’re working outdoors, and you wear a mask and you maintain social distance, the government really shouldn’t be stopping you from working anymore. We have enough information about it that if you do those three things, the likelihood of spreading the disease is extremely low,” Garofalo said.

The Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based conservative group, called on Walz to release details about the modeling used to predict the impact of COVID-19, saying the stakes are too high for anything but complete transparency.

Health Commissioner Malcolm said she expects to provide a thorough briefing about the model Friday.


To hear an audio report of this story and read related reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.  https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/04/09/minnesotas-governor-says-staying-home-works-and-needs-to-co...


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