MN Government Updates 04.08

Walz Extends Stay Home Order for Minnesotans

To continue Minnesota’s success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 across the state, Governor Tim Walz today extended the Stay Home Order until May 4.

 What we are doing is working, Minnesota,” said Governor Walz. “We are taking this seriously, and we are staying home. While Minnesota is showing lower rates of infections than our peers across the country, now is not the time to let up or allow that trajectory to change. Updated federal guidance and our own public health experts are showing that if we keep staying home, we will save lives – which is why I made the data-driven decision to extend the Stay Home Order until May 4.”

The Governor’s order to stay home is forecasted to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19, pushing out the peak of the disease and allowing the state to continue key preparations for the pandemic. These preparations include building new hospital capacity and buying ventilators and masks, planning for how to protect those most at risk, expanding testing, and freeing up time for health care giants like the Mayo Clinic to develop critical treatments for the virus. The Stay Home Order is now extended to 11:59 pm on May 3, 2020.
  
Consistent with the extended Stay Home Order, Executive Order 20-33 also extends the closure of bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations through 11:59 pm on May 3, 2020 and outlines exemptions to the Stay Home Order, including exempted activities and critical sector workers.

“We’re facing an historic public health crisis, and Minnesotans are rising to the challenge,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “The social distancing and community mitigation efforts Governor Walz implemented have secured us much-needed time to prepare more fully for the predicted peak in cases, and today’s announcement gives us a better chance to save even more lives. We are thankful for the tremendous effort and sacrifices Minnesotans are making.”

Under the extended order, Minnesotans may leave their residences only to perform the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:

  • Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home is unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or reasons related to essential operations.
  • Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies.
  • Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing.
  • Necessary supplies and services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out.
  • Essential intrastate and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state.
  • Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household.
  • Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home.
  • Moving or relocation, such as moving to a new home or place of residence.
  • Voting, including all local and state elections.
  • Funerals, provided that no more than ten attendees are gathered and strict social distancing is enforced.
  • Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation.

Executive Order 20-33 also orders that all workers who can work from home must do so. Workers in critical sectors who cannot work from home are permitted to go to work. Guidance related to critical sectors is available at http://mn.gov/deed/critical/.

The Governor’s Executive Order will have the full force and effect of law upon approval by the Executive Council.

Updates on the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota are available at mn.gov/covid19/.

Frequently asked questions are available here: https://mn.gov/covid19/faq/.

Governor Walz Daily Press Briefing

Governor Walz and administration officials held a press conference with reporters to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The main focus of the press conference was to discuss the governor’s Executive Order 20-33.

Governor Walz

  • Governor Walz announced that the state has five more COVID-19 deaths since yesterday’s report. The total amount of state deaths is now at 39.
  • The governor also announced the state received approval from the federal government for the major disaster declaration.
  • This will provide authorization for funding to support crisis counseling, supplemental nutrition programs, medical assistance, funeral assistance, legal services, and statewide hazard mitigation.
  • The federal assistance will help mitigate the pandemic’s impact on public health, state resources, unemployment, and community infrastructure such as health care facilities.
  • Based on updated modeling, Walz said the state is going to need 3,000 to 5,000 ICU beds between mid-May and mid-July.
  • The governor said the current challenge is acquiring ventilators because a manufacturer is obligated to provide ventilators to the federal government before any state. He also said that the supply issue for personal protective equipment also remains a challenge because states are competing against one another.
  • The executive order also requires state agencies to work with small businesses to begin short-term plans to re-open based on social distancing protocols.
  • The governor said the current mitigation efforts by the state and by Minnesotans have worked. It has allowed for the time necessary for the state to build hospital capacity that will be needed down the road.
  • He reiterated that his message today is for Minnesotans to stay home.
  • When asked about changes to his executive order over his original one, Walz answered that landscaping will be allowed as well as mowing of golf courses. There will be rules forthcoming from the state on implementing social distancing for those exceptions.
  • When asked about whether students will be back in school on May 4, the governor responded, “I think that’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t close the door 100%.”

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced that Minnesota now has 1,154 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID019. This is up 85 since yesterday’s report.
  • There have been five more deaths due to COVID-19. This brings the state total to 39.
  • Four were long-term care residents.
  • One was a patient in the 50-age range who had underlying health issues.
  • The commissioner announced that the department will have a briefing on Friday regarding the updated model the state is using.
  • She reiterated that the peak in infections is yet to come and that Minnesotans need to continue social distancing to allow for the state to increase the capacity to treat COVID-19 and other health issues.
  • Additionally, she specifically mentioned that the new information shows that Minnesotans in rural communities are not adhering to social distancing guidelines as closely as those in the metro area. She explained that those in rural communities are often older and have underlying health issues – making the risk of contracting COVID-19 higher for those individuals.

Director Joe Kelly, Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division

  • Director Kelly said that his agency will be using this time to finish planning for alternate care sites for those who need medical attention not related to COVID-19.
  • Additionally, this time will allow for the state to accumulate as much personal protective equipment, supplies, and medical equipment as possible.
  • He’s also working to put in place medical sheltering for those who are homeless.
  • Director Kelly also expressed his gratitude for members of the Minnesota National Guard who are reporting to Oslo to address flooding in the Red River.

Commissioner Steve Grove, Department of Employment and Economic Development

  • Commissioner Grove announced that Minnesota is the first state to process the additional $600 payments that came through the federal CARES Act. This money will be included in the unemployment insurance payments Minnesotans receive and will be backdated to March 29.
  • He also announced that 367,194 new unemployment applications have been submitted since March 16.
  • Yesterday, the department received 12,925 applications.
  • The trend line for applications submitted is beginning to decrease.
  • Through the governor’s executive order today, DEED is looking at making plans for non-critical sectors to get back to work when appropriate.

Minnesota Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group Holds Fifth Meeting

Today, the Minnesota Senate held a fifth COVID-19 Response Working Group meeting – focusing on transportation related provisions in COVID-19 response bills. Testifiers included the Department of Transportation

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and other transportation-related advocacy groups. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) was not present at this hearing due to being in talks with the Governor.

Topics of discussion included the extension of commercial driver’s license (CDL) registration deadlines, waiving background checks for seasonal CDLs, the impact of COVID-19 on the air industry, and public transportation safety measures. The Metropolitan Council has instituted reduced bus and light rail services, increased buses in certain lines to maintain 8-10 people per bus, regular bus cleanings, and cloth masks for all drivers. There has been increased concerns about the presence of unsheltered non-destination riders on the light rail, and it is an ongoing effort to ensure their safety by Metro Transit Police.

Currently, there is not a scheduled meeting date for the group’s next hearing. However, Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) did suggest that there would be another hearing on COVID-19 needs before a bill would go to the floor.

House Subcommittee on Elections Meeting

Today the House Subcommittee on Elections met for an informational hearing regarding election procedures in response to COVID-19.

Secretary of State Steve Simon laid out a proposed plan for all elections scheduled during or following the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Updated procedures would involve conducting elections largely by mail, in conjunction with a reduced amount of polling places. All registered voters would receive a mail in ballot, while same day registration would still be in place for in person polling.

His proposal also allows for the Office of the Secretary of State to consolidate or close high risk polling places and train healthcare providers in long term care facilities to facilitate absentee balloting. Voting administrators would be given more time to process mail ballots and nominating petitions for candidates could be signed electronically instead of the traditional door-to-door process. Lastly, his proposal would authorize the use of $6.9 million Help America Vote Act funds from the federal government. All of these measures would reduce in person contact to protect voters and election judges.

House Republicans expressed some objections to this plan. Their primary concerns included increased opportunity for election fraud due to mail-in ballots and lack of ballot security. As an alternative, House Republicans advocated for increased municipal polling places.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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