MN Government Updates 05.07

Walz Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Tim Walz and Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm held a press conference to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Tim Walz

  • Governor Walz noted that the state has reached an unfortunate milestone with over 500 deaths due to COVID-19 and that the state will soon pass over 10,000 laboratory-confirmed cases.
  • The governor provided a general outline of his plan for protecting long-term care residents and workers that includes:
    • Expanded testing
    • Enhanced support for infection prevention
    • Providing masks and other personal protective equipment when supplies run short
    • Ensuring adequate staffing as facilities face significant numbers of COVID-19 cases among residents or staff.
    • Leveraging partnerships
  • With the upcoming weekend marking Mother’s Day and the fishing opener, Walz asked Minnesotans to not travel far distances and maintain social distancing protocols in order to prevent overwhelming small, rural community hospitals.
  • When asked what is next in terms of business expansion, the governor responded that allowing smaller retailers on main street to open their doors is the likely the next step.
  • When asked if smaller, socially-distant graduation parties could happen, the governor responded that his administration is working on guidance on that front and that guidance will be issued either this week or early next week.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced that another 780 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been added since yesterday’s report. This brings the state total to 9,365.
  • An additional 23 individuals have passed away from COVID-19 – bringing the total to 508 deaths.
  • Currently, 435 patients are hospitalized for COVID-19 with 182 of those in the ICU.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities account for:
  • Less than 1% of Minnesota’s population
  • 15% of Minnesota’s COVID-19 cases
  • 80% of MN COVID-19 deaths
  • The commissioner provide an overview a five-point plan for protecting Minnesota long-term care residents and workers.
    • Point 1: Expand Testing for Residents and Workers
      • Issue new guidance on testing, screening and monitoring, with requirements for long-term care facilities to:
      • Institute consistent “active screening” practices for residents and staff
      • Expand testing to all symptomatic residents & staff, as well as facility-wide testing when a case is confirmed or when multiple people develop symptoms
      • Continue routine testing of residents/staff meeting specific risk criteria
      • Amplify, expand and accelerate work on facilities’ action plans for COVID-19 cases among residents or staff, including steps for dealing with many cases
      • Continue to ensure staff are trained on proper use of masks and other protective equipment
    • Point 2: Provide Testing and Troubleshooting
      • Work with health systems to create “strike teams” that quickly conduct on-site testing and necessary follow up
      • Coordinate with regional health care coalitions for immediate response and resources
      • Coordinate with Testing Command Center to ensure testing supplies move efficiently where they are needed
    • Point 3: Get Facilities Needed Personal Protective Equipment
      • Maintain state-managed cache of masks and other personal protective equipment for emergency use when a facility exhausts its supplies and is unable to restock
      • Push out needed equipment for facilities facing outbreaks, and make it available to other facilities based on availability
    • Point 4: Ensure Adequate Staffing Levels
      • Using a mix of strategies to get staffing support to facilities in crisis. These may include:
      • Utilize the COVID-19 fund and contracts to support “bridge staffing teams” of health care workers to provide temporary staffing
      • Aggressively advocating for increased state and federal resources.
      • Activating the Minnesota National Guard
      • Using databases to “call out” healthcare workers that can take on-call shifts
      • Using incentives to encourage health care systems to provide crisis staffing to facilities
    • Point 5: Leverage Partnerships
      • Partner with local public health to coordinate support and provide on-site technical assistance for facilities
      • Launch a new case management model at facilities, leveraging local public health and regional coalitions to provide guidance, monitoring and support
      • Make sure that facilities maintain strong preparedness plans, including plans to reduce disease transmission and limit exposure risks
      • Require facility commitment to reduce transmission by excluding ill workers and those testing positive, and by excluding workers with unprotected exposure

House, Senate Convene for Floor Sessions

Today, the Minnesota Senate convened at 11:00 a.m. to pass four bills:

  • Senate File 3429, authored by Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), authorizes local governments to adopt special procedures for use at the 2020 state primary and state general elections to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed 66-1.
  • Senate File 3225, authored by Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), modifies various transportation, motor vehicles, and drivers laws. The bill passed 67-0.
  • Senate File 3560, authored by Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), makes changes to state healthcare policy. The bill passed 67-0.
  • Senate File 3298, authored by Senator Dave Senjem (R-Rochester), modifies the deadline for the chief judge of a district to appoint charter commission members. The bill passed 67-0.

The Senate will return for a floor session on Monday. The Minnesota House met at 1:30 p.m. to pass the COVID-19 Economic Security Act. This bill has four major components:

  • Loans During Public Emergencies
  • Funds small business emergency loans in response to the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
  • Allows financial institutions to open accounts for persons who have previously issued dishonored checks or have been convicted of a crime related to checks.
  • Requires lenders to allow borrower to repay consumer loans (a loan of $350 or less due within 30 days) and consumer short-term loans (a loan of $1,000 or less due within 60 days) in equal amounts over a period of 12-months during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency until February 15, 2021.
  • Grants for Broadband and Telemedicine Equipment
  • Makes grants to school districts and charter schools for broadband and other telecommunication needs.
  • Provides grants to reimburse certain medical providers for telemedicine equipment and connectivity needs.
  • Housing Assistance
  • Provides financial assistance to residential tenants, homeowners, and manufactured home owners to pay for housing costs if they have lost income due to COVID-19.
  • Limits landlords from assessing late fees and terminating or failing to renew leases during the peacetime emergency, and initiating evictions after a peacetime emergency related to COVID-19.
  • Prevents foreclosures from being started during a peacetime emergency related to COVID-19.
  • Personal Care Assistants
  • Modifies the personal care assistance (PCA) program by increasing the monthly limit on the number of hours a personal care assistant may provide PCA services under Medical Assistance.
  • Temporarily suspends the prohibition on parents of minors who are receiving PCA services or the spouse of a recipient from providing and being paid for providing PCA services under Medical Assistance.
  • Increasing temporarily PCA rates and enhanced rates by 15% in response to COVID-19.

The House will meet again on Saturday for a floor session to take up several bills.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
LOCKRIDGE GRINDAL NAUEN P.L.L.P.
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