MN Government Updates 04.20

Walz Daily Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Walz and other officials held a press conference to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Walz

  • Governor Walz talked about his recent conversations with business leaders of different sectors about how businesses are going to have to change the way business is done for the next 18 months until a vaccine against COVID-19 is available. For instance, the retail experience for buying clothes will change dramatically with few people going to try clothes on in the store.
  • The governor discussed the team of public and private sector partners he’s put together to acquire more personal protective equipment for medical professionals and first responders.
  • From the public sector, the Department of Administration is coordinating efforts.
  • From the private sector, Ecolab is leading efforts among the business community.
  • Walz thanked the public health officials in Worthington who are addressing the JBS plant situation where there have been multiple confirmed COVID-19 infections of employees.
  • JBS has announced a voluntary temporary shut-down of the facility.
  • The state is undergoing robust testing of employees.
  • The lessons learned from the JBS plan will be applied to similar facilities across the state.
  • The governor said that he spoke with President Trump on Saturday evening for about 10 minutes.
  • He said he asked the president how the state could better align with the administration’s proposals. The president responded that he was hearing good things about what was happening in Minnesota.
  • He talked about the challenges with acquiring personal protective equipment.
  • President Trump expressed a desire to work with the Walz Administration.
  • He expressed to President Trump that his tweet last week wasn’t helpful. They have agreed to call and talk over issues.
  • The governor said he left the conversation on Saturday night feeling more aligned with the president on COVID-19 efforts. Walz noted the president put out a tweet this morning that mentioned it was a good conversation.
  • When asked about the 18-month timeline for business to resume normal operations, Walz responded that businesses understand that behavior won’t change until there is a vaccine. Businesses are making plans to respond to this. While it’s not feasible to shelter in place for 18 months, the state is looking at short-term triage while evaluating what resuming business looks like in the long term.
  • When asked about the ramp up in testing, the governor responded that he hopes to see a significant increase in molecular testing this week. He told President Trump to watch Minnesota this week since this may be the model to follow.
  • When asked about a continuation of the “Stay at Home” order beyond May 4, Governor Walz responded, “We’re looking at modifications. Our intention will be to continue to do more as more information comes in. We should be able to do more, but the nature of a virus like this makes it challenging. We’re always looking at new data to modify. I’m trying to thread the needle between public safety and smart, science-based reopening.”

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced the state has 2,470 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is up 114 since yesterday’s report.
  • She also announced nine additional deaths – bringing the total to 143.
  • Eight of the nine deaths were associated with residents in long-term care facilities.
  • 237 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 with 126 of those in the ICU.
  • The commissioner provided an overview of the state’s handling of the JBS plant situation.
  • One of the challenges is a language barrier – with at least 40 languages spoken among the workers. Many of the workers have crowded living situations and some don’t have phones.
  • Of the 77 confirmed cases in Nobles County, the Department of Health has completed 41 interviews.
  • 33 of those interviews were with JBS employees.
  • Six of the interviews were with family members of employees.

Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab

  • Ecolab is taking the lead on procurement efforts for personal protective equipment and medical equipment among businesses in Minnesota.
  • A letter was sent out last Friday asking businesses to volunteer their efforts on procurement. Several companies stepped up. Some of them are:
    • 3M
    • Donaldson
    • CH Robinson
    • Mayo Clinic
    • Polaris
    • Ecolab

Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis, Department of Administration

  • Commissioner Roberts-Davis mentioned that many Minnesota businesses have stepped up to assist the state with procurement efforts.
  • Ecolab made the call to other corporations to step up and offer their talent to vet procurement leads.

Commissioner Peggy Leppink, Department of Labor and Industry

  • Commissioner Leppink announced that her department (DOLI) is sending out health and safety guidelines to facilities across the state.
  • DOLI is asking for the health status of workers in such facilities to allow the state to focus testing resources more efficiently and effectively. This will allow the state to help facilities identify ways to change operations in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • The department’s goal is to keep plants open, but in a manner that keeps workers safe. The Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and DOLI will collaborate on these efforts.

Commissioner Thom Petersen, Department of Agriculture

  • Commissioner Petersen said that the Department of Agriculture is working with JBS to find a way to resume operations as soon as possible.
  • He also said there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 through food or food packaging.
  • Minnesota is the number two pork producer in the country. Given this, the department is working with smaller plants to build capacity within the state. The department has given grants to these plants to increase capacity.
  • The department is working with other state agencies ensure a safe and affordable food supply.

Senate Passes Three Bills, Confirms Public Utilities Commission Member

  • Today, the Senate convened at 11:00 AM to pass three bills and confirm a member of the Public Utilities Commission.
  • Senate File 1098, authored by Senator Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), requires drug manufacturers to report information to the Department of Health if prescription drug prices increase in price over a specific amount, if new prescription drugs meet a specified price threshold, and if newly acquired prescription drugs price exceeds a specified price threshold. This legislation also requires the commissioner of the Department of Health to post the reported information on the department’s website. The bill passed 63-2.
  • Senate File 3358, authored by Senator Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point), exempts 16 and 17 year olds from the prohibition on minors operating amusement rides. It also specifies that the minimum age for ride operators is 16 years of age. The bill passed 65-2.
  • Senate File 3197, authored by Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), requires county agencies that issue variances for family childcare providers to publish on the county website and update accordingly the policies and criteria for issuing variances. Additionally, counties must annually distribute the policies and criteria to licensed family childcare providers in the county. The bill passed 65-2.
  • The Senate also confirmed Public Utilities Commissioner Valerie Means by voice vote. While commissioners and top officials of the state’s various departments are appointed by the governor, they are subject to confirmation by the Senate. Once appointed, a commissioner can serve without any action by the Senate, but he or she cannot serve any longer if the Senate has voted to refuse to consent to his or her appointment.
  • With her confirmation by the Senate today, Commissioner Means will serve until January 6, 2025, as members of the Public Utilities Commission serve six-year terms.

The Senate is schedule to return on Thursday, April 23 at 11:00 AM.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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