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Gov. Walz issues 'stay at home' order to slow coronavirus spread

Governor Walz during a visit to the Grand Portage community. Photo by Rhonda Silence
Governor Walz during a visit to the Grand Portage community. Photo by Rhonda Silence

   Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the state’s health care system. The governor’s “stay at home” order begins at midnight Friday and runs through April 10. He said the restrictions are critical to allow the state to protect its most vulnerable people and give time to build up the state’s capacity to handle a flood of infections.

  In his live video message, the governor spoke about the research being done on the spread of the COVID-19 here in Minnesota and about the concern that it is too late to “flatten the curve” completely. He said modeling being conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that increasing residents’ social distancing patterns from the current 50% to 80% would push the peak of the pandemic in the state back to 14 weeks instead of nine, and could delay the peak load on intensive care units from six weeks to 11 weeks.

 Walz shared the news that Minnesota has just 235 adult ICU beds at the moment.  The governor said this order will buy time to transform arenas and stadiums into hospitals, stockpile ventilators and build up ICU capacity. 

  Walz said, “I’m asking for your patience, your cooperation and your understanding.” He pledged to use the time wisely to get that work done.  

  People will still be allowed to go to grocery stores and their doctors and buy gasoline, he said, but the governor extended his earlier order closing bars and restaurants to May 1. Public schools, which are closed, will implement distance learning plans beginning Monday. He planned to announce more details later Wednesday.

 The governor encouraged outdoor activities, but reminded residents to be mindful and NOT to congregate in parks.  

  Ending his address, Walz said, “Buckle it up for a few more weeks.”

  The state’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 287 today, up 25 from a day earlier, with 26 hospitalized cases, up 11 from Tuesday.  Officials have stressed that the real total of Minnesota residents with the disease is much higher because many people don’t qualify for testing. But more than 11,000 people have now been tested in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Health Department.

  Minnesota lawmakers were preparing to return to the Capitol tomorrow to beef up the state’s fight against COVID-19 and help residents cope with the economic hardships. Democratic legislative leaders expressed support for the governor’s move, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a statement that he has “grave concerns about the governor’s statewide Stay-at-Home order, and the consequences for the families of Minnesota when their jobs and businesses that provide their livelihood are lost.”