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Walz Extends Stay-at-Home Order Through April 10

Restaurants and bars will stay closed through May 1.

Walz Extends Stay-at-Home Order Through April 10
An empty Nicollet Mall. Photo by David Bowman

In a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19 infections in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday issued a stay-at-home order that will last from Friday through April 10.

The latest order effectively extends earlier recommendations to stay indoors. Walz said his aim was to reduce socialization by up to 80 percent, whereas his previous order cut it down by about 50 percent. The governor also extended the closure of bars and restaurants through May 1. Restaurants are still permitted to continue providing takeout.

“The attempt here is to strike a proper balance of making sure that our economy can function, we protect the most vulnerable, we slow the rate to buy us time and build out our capacity to deal with this,” Walz said during a Wednesday afternoon press call.

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According to modeling by state health officials, as many as 74,000 Minnesotans could die without more restrictive orders. Walz conceded that the stay-at-home order wouldn’t necessarily decrease the number of infections, but would instead space them out so that hospitals have enough capacity to care for critically sick patients. About 15 percent of those infected are expected to require hospitalization, and 5 percent would need intensive care.

“The only thing we are able to flatten is the ICU usage and its capacity...so if you need the ICU, it's there,” Walz said.

Walz’s order allows businesses in “essential” industries to continue running. That includes health care and public health, law enforcement, child care, food and ag, news media, energy, water, and critical manufacturing. The order will likely mean the temporary closure of non-essential businesses whose employees can't work from home.

"All workers who can work from home must do so," Walz's executive order reads.

Nonexempt businesses do have the ability to petition for an essential status. More than three-quarters of the state's jobs are in critical industries, according to Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Minnesota follows in the footsteps of several nearby states that have enacted similar orders, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. 

“We need to be flexible and innovative in our thinking at this time,” said Walz.

Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, said he's encouraging temporarily shuttered businesses to keep lines of communication open with furloughed workers. The Minneapolis chamber suggested allowing businesses to keep employees on company health plans, too.

"When we come out of this, and we will, we want to make sure that employees still have that allegiance to their employer, and that their relationship can pick up where it left off," he said.

Walz consulted with the state's biggest business groups before issuing the order. Doug Loon, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said that his organization gave the governor advice while crafting the order.

"We encouraged it to be reasonably short, which this is. We encouraged it to have a robust list of critical infrastructure," Loon said.

Not everyone is on board, though. Paul Gazelka, Minnesota Senate majority leader, tweeted that he has "grave concerns" about the stay-at-home order.

Essential industries include: 

Information, Technology, and Communication

Internet, television, and phone service is deemed essential and will continue to function. Radio and television broadcasting will continue. And, of course, snail mail will still be delivered–rain, shine, or pandemic. The news media is also categorized as essential.

Transportation 

Unless it’s for sightseeing, transportation–including trains, planes, urban transit systems and auxiliary support systems–is still a go. This is necessary for moving freight, so grocery stores can remain stocked and so people can get to grocery stores.

Food Supply

Anything related to the food supply chain is deemed essential, inclduing grocery stores, farms, food and beverage manufacturers, and takeout and delivery for restaurants. And yes, this includes liquor stores.

Health Services

As with food, industries related to pharmaceuticals, medical supply manufacturing, emergency response, hospitals, clinics, health, wellness, and most scientific research are considered essential. But this doesn't include gyms and elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures. 

Legal, Insurance, and Financial Services 

Lawyers and accountants are still allowed to continue work, and banks are allowed to stay open. But many banks have made changes to how they offer services by closing lobbies, and many accountants can work from home. 

More information can be found on DEED’s website.

Meanwhile, applications for unemployment insurance benefits continue to pour in. From March 16 through March 24, Minnesota reported 164,786 new and reactivated unemployment benefits applications. Numbers are expected to continue to rise.

Estimates are that during the two-week executive order shutting down many operations, 28 percent of Minnesotans will be temporarily jobless, Grove said.

 

 

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