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What you need to know about Minnesota’s extended stay-at-home order

Gov. Tim Walz
Evan Frost/MPR/Pool
Gov. Tim Walz said the state can’t expect to eliminate coronavirus, and only hopes to slow its spread until hospitals can build capacity to handle any surge in patients and the state can provide widespread testing to track the disease and isolate the sick.

Gov. Tim Walz has extended his stay-home order until May 18 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While most of the limits on public life will remain, the governor said nonessential retail businesses can start offering curbside pickup and delivery services for customers. 

The revised order comes as deaths continue to rise in Minnesota. Now 343 people have died in Minnesota from COVID-19, and the state reported 24 new deaths on Wednesday alone. 

Walz said the state can’t expect to eliminate coronavirus, and only hopes to slow its spread until hospitals can build capacity to handle any surge in patients and the state can provide widespread testing to track the disease and isolate the sick. Along the way, he expects the state will slowly build “herd immunity.”

State officials hope they will soon be able to test every Minnesotan who has symptoms of COVID-19, though the state does not yet have the capacity to do that.

Here’s what we know about the order:

How long will it last?

Instead of expiring May 4, the stay-home order will continue until May 18. Until then, people generally can travel only for essential needs, such as trips for groceries, gasoline, health care, outdoor recreation and helping care for family and friends. Restrictions on in-house dining and drinking at bars remain.

What’s the rationale for extending the order?

Walz said the state has made great strides to secure personal protective equipment and create capacity for intensive care beds to handle any surge of COVID-19 patients. 

Minnesota currently has 1,244 ICU beds and could create more than a thousand more in a 72-hour timeframe, for a total of 2,587, according to the state’s COVID-19 preparedness dashboard. It has a current inventory of 1 million face masks, 85,000 face shields, 7.3 million non-latex gloves, 49,000 gowns and 331,000 N95 respirators. More of each of those items is on order.

“I would not put people out there and open up the way we’re opening up some of these things if I believed the risk factor was too high,” Walz said. “I do believe the work that we’ve done does have the capacity for us to be able to deal with this.”

Still, Walz said more could be done, and it “appears like Minnesota is climbing the curve” by adding more infections. The explosion of cases in Nobles County, centered around the JBS pork plant in Worthington, is one example of a situation making the governor cautious. 

The state wants to continue adding critical care capacity, like ICU beds and ventilators and be able to test all Minnesotans with symptoms. He did not give specific benchmarks for when the state will have met those goals.

“Those who are saying that we should just open up all businesses tomorrow because this thing’s not that serious and we overreacted — they are wrong,” Walz said. “Those who are saying we should open up as fast as we can because this is causing huge economic damage and we should figure out a way to do that, that is the safest possible way to do it — those people are right.”

What’s new about this order?

Over the last few weeks, the governor has allowed more businesses that were initially considered not essential to restart operations, including many manufacturers. This order allows nonessential retail businesses to offer curbside pickup and delivery services starting Monday. The state estimates the move could put 30,000 people back to work. (More than 584,000 people have applied for unemployment insurance since March 16.)

Going into those businesses will still be prohibited, and the governor advised people to not leave their car if possible while picking up goods. When delivering goods, businesses are supposed to leave them outside of people’s homes and not interact with customers.

While salons and barbershops can’t cut hair or provide in-person services, they can now sell products like other retail shops. More details can be found in the governor’s executive order.

If I’m a business, what do I need to do to operate?

It’s not mandatory for businesses to reopen, but if they choose to, they must develop a plan to safely operate and publicly post it. The state won’t review each plan to approve or deny it, but will reserve the right to see such plans if complaints come in about working conditions.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development has posted a template for these plans on its website, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also issued extensive guidance on best practices for businesses.

They include training employees on handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces frequently, switching to contact-free payment, staggering shifts and breaks, and checking the temperature of employees at the start of shifts. Target recently announced it will offer infrared, no-touch thermometers to businesses at cost.

The state is recommending that all workers and customers wear masks if possible.

What does this mean for workers?

The state has said those who are young and healthy with no underlying health conditions should generally return to work if their business does. Steve Grove, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said businesses should develop their safety plans in coordination with workers. But if dangerous situations arise, employees can call a hotline run by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to report it.

Walz said businesses that don’t operate well will also face a hit to reputation and risk sickening workers. “This is ‘Yelp’ on steroids, if you will, about which businesses are doing this right,” Walz said.

Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said while there may be some “bad actors,” businesses need to protect workers to keep stores operating. He said some companies may delay opening until they can get access to PPE or sanitizers.

What about restrictions on social gatherings?

The governor has used a metaphor of turning “dials” up and down for public life restrictions. And while he has turned up the dial on business operations, allowing more to operate, social gatherings are still locked down to the fullest extent.

Walz said he knows the limits are difficult for people to adhere to, especially as the weather turns warmer and events like weddings, funerals and graduations are altered or canceled. “It is 70 degrees on the last day of April, the trees are budding out, the flowers have come out, you would be at baseball games, track meets,” Walz said. “It has totally disrupted everything of where we’re at.”

But social distancing in these settings continue to be the state’s “strongest tool” to prevent the spread of disease, Walz said.

What comes next?

As the governor outlined his restrictions he also started plotting the future. He said some of his limits on public life could even be eased before May 18.

On the more immediate horizon could be opening up businesses for customers to go inside, allowing people to hold small family gatherings and opening places of worship. The governor is also considering allowing some elective surgeries soon, and said he wouldn’t stockpile protective equipment and prevent those procedures if they have enough.

“It’s my desire to turn that knob as quickly as we can,” Walz said of gatherings like weddings. “If it were today I would say no, we can’t do them today. Can we do them by the end of May or June? Potentially.”

The order gets a mixed reaction from state political leaders

Walz’s order was met with frustration by Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican from East Gull Lake, said the governor is “asking the right questions and looking at the right data.”

“But I’m disappointed he’s not turning the dial further today,” Gazelka added. “I think he should move further, and faster, opening businesses up again in Minnesota.”

Kurt Daudt, the House Minority Leader, said: “Every day that goes by risks the permanent closure of businesses that are staples in our communities. The governor and his administration should work with any industry that remains closed and offer a clear timeline when they can expect a decision.”

Peter Callaghan and Greta Kaul also contributed to this story.

Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/30/2020 - 05:45 pm.

    Like it or not, here is a situation in which the Governor is actually speaking and behaving as a genuine conservative – not a rhetorical one, but a real one. He is doing what genuine conservatives do, treading cautiously, with due regard for the health and lives of Minnesotans, many of whom, whether they know it or not, whether they’re inclined to admit the possibility or not, are having their lives threatened by a disease we’re only beginning to understand. In many instances, it has struck the elderly and/or those with underlying health conditions, but the key word there is “many.” Not everyone who has died was living in an elder care facility and already suffering from some chronic condition, and it’s those exceptions that make the virus even more dangerous than it already seems to be for the elderly.

    Mr. Gazelka and, to a lesser degree for a change, Mr. Daudt, are the wild-eyed radicals in this case.

    • Submitted by J Sutherland on 05/01/2020 - 06:48 am.

      Ray, I respectfully disagree. Philosophically, the dems always want to look out for what they think is our best interest and make our decisions for us, which is what Governor Walz is doing. Conservatives , philosphically want to allow us to allow people to make to make our decisions.

      Based on yesterdays’ announcment, I can now get my dog groomed but I can’t get a haircut? C’mon. My real concern, however, is how out-state gets rolled into all of this. County’s that have had MINIMAL IF ANY issues are rolled into this “order.” The issues with the this flu are in the metro area. Yet places like Lake County, Cook County and others- where there have been zero cases of the virus- are rolled into this order.

      The Governor, no matter who or she migh be, is in a tough spot. But to say he is acting like a genuine concervative is off-base.

      With respect to disagree…..have a great day and weekend.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 05/01/2020 - 02:24 pm.

        I hope you understand the difference between getting your dog groomed and getting a haircut yourself with respect to maintaining social distancing. You can hand over your dog to a groomer and never have to have close person-to-person contact. That is not going to be possible when someone is cutting the hair attached to your head (unless you have AWFULLY long hair!).

      • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/01/2020 - 02:31 pm.

        J…….They do not know if Lake, Cook, or my county, Hubbard, has any cases. They most likely do, but they are not identified….such as those previously unidentified in Ca. Few people in Park Rapids, Hubbard county, are observing social distancing in stores such as Walmart…few wear masks. It is here.

      • Submitted by Kevin Schumacher on 05/01/2020 - 07:46 pm.

        Out state Clay County has the second most covid cases per capital…some of us out staters can forego haircuts for a bit.

      • Submitted by Joel Stegner on 05/04/2020 - 09:38 am.

        Your dog can safely get a hair cut and your dog is unlikely to infect the barber. That is not true for you. Can you not grasp this clear distinction?

        Barbers deal with a constant stream of customers. You can bet that they will be wearing face masks and doing their part, but their customers? Will they come in with the illness, not wearing a face mask, following the bad example of Pence and Trump. If so, they will infect the barber, putting all of their other customers at risk. It is pretty clear that until we have a vaccine, going out in public in close proximity to other people will require wearing a face mask. Only those who refuse will be denied service. And when we have a vaccine, everyone who can safely have the vaccine will be expected to do so, denied entry to airplanes and other confined spaces. And while we are at it, the same approach should be applied to all infectious diseases for which there is a vaccine. Saving lives of others trumps your “freedom.”

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/01/2020 - 08:47 am.

      Very well stated, Mr. Schoch.

      I would also note that death is not the only relevant metric to this pandemic, despite the myopic focus on it by our “conservative” friends. Covid is sending a remarkable percent of people into hospitalization, with large numbers going into (lengthy) ICU stays. This is an expensive as well as dangerous disease. Nor does it strike just the respiratory system. In many ways it has the doctors scratching their heads as to proper treatment.

      Yet we have to suffer reckless nonsense about irrelevant comparisons to swine flu and (even more absurd) the common flu. This with over 60,000 deaths in a month–and this death toll with utterly unprecedented stay at home orders in many of the most populous states/cities in the nation! And because the death toll is highest in difficult to lock-down congregate living facilities with poorly paid, overworked staff, that is then used to “argue” that the nursing home elderly with underlying conditions are the absolutely, positively, the ONLY ones who have to worry. Yes, flawlessly logical, as Spock would say….

      Never has there been a greater example of just how far off the rails the “conservative” movement has careened. Seventeen years ago we had President Cheney whipping the American right into a frenzy of war fever if there was a 1% chance of another terrorist attack. Today we have conservatives downplaying a global pandemic acknowledged as such by every sensible nation on earth. What a disastrously unhinged political movement the nation is saddled with.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 05/01/2020 - 04:03 pm.

      I would have to disagree as well. The data clearly proves the stay at home orders did nothing to slow the spread. The extreme majority of cases and deaths are coming from LTCFs yet Walz has done almost nothing to protect them.

      The Governor is floundering and refuses to admit he was wrong. He is causing great damage to the MN economy.

      • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 05/01/2020 - 05:50 pm.

        “The data clearly proves the stay at home orders did nothing to slow the spread.”

        At what point are you going to cite this data?

        • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 05/04/2020 - 08:52 am.

          I have cited it repeatedly here. Harvard back calculated R0 (Karl Denninger was the first to do it). CNBC even had an article on the NY State serology testing results. FL and CA have done serology testing showing the virus has spread far and wide despite the lockdowns. The data is out there if you just take a few minutes to look for it.

          If the lockdowns worked, there is no way 25+% of NYC residents could have already been infected. If the lockdowns worked, States like IA and SD would have a higher R0 than we do yet they don’t.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/30/2020 - 07:50 pm.

    As the Strib editorial page noticed a few days ago, the “stay at home” order is being ignored. Just visit a big box home improvement retailer, or look at the parking lot, but this idea that people are staying at home is ridiculous. Sure, a handful are, but right now the best thing the Governor could do is allow people to go back to work so they stop flooding the Lowes, Home Depots, and Menards who are booming at the moment. Even the highways are returning to almost normal levels which means that we are essentially Sweden right now.

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 05/01/2020 - 12:59 pm.

      Unlike Sweden, where small businesses are allowed to open, under our rules, only the big box stores that have the right political connections on both sides of the aisle are allowed to operate and small businesses get screwed.

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 05/01/2020 - 09:41 am.

    So no mention of who is actually dying from this virus, older folks with underlying health issues. The average age of those dying is 86 years old (with underlying health issues). Children are almost immune to this disease and don’t seem to be carriers either, yet schools are shut down. I’m happy that 30k folks will get back to work but with nearly 600k applying for unemployment insurance, it is a drop in the bucket.
    There has been 5k confirmed cases of COViD 19 in the State with 343 deaths. A total of 1,000 people have been hospitalized and 2k+ have been deemed “cured” of the disease. This is with testing 70k+ Minnesotans. Please give me the science behind staying in your basement. More testing will show exactly what we know now, older folks with health issues are at risk, healthy people are not and never will be at risk from this virus, children are not affected, there are areas of the State where COVID 19 is not an issue at all. There are 2,500 ICU beds available in the State and a total of 1,000 have been hospitalized in 2 months!! Are we afraid we will run out of beds? The statistics don’t show that at all.
    The talking point of the Democrats is we use science to make decisions, show me the science. Please don’t speculate as to what may happen, just use the statistics we have gathered over 3 months.

    • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/01/2020 - 10:24 am.

      ” Now 343 people have died in Minnesota from COVID-19, and the state reported 24 new deaths on Wednesday alone. ”

      How many of these deaths were care center residence?

      Why are these numbers rarely reported?

      How many of these deaths reported had additional health issues?

      I would think we would like to know the actual “science” behind these #’s?

      Maybe if MN had a GOP Governor, a member of the media would ask…”What do you have against old people or how many care center deaths are acceptable to you?

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/01/2020 - 02:53 pm.

        It certainly has been reported. And it has been Republicans who have been minimizing the crisis by pointing out its mostly the old and sick who are dying. Some (like the the Republican Texas Lt. Governor) have come out and said we should sacrifice old people to help the economy.

        What the media should be asking Republicans (and not all Republicans – some Republican governors like Mike DeWine and Larry Hogan have taken appropriate measures) is why they don’t care about old people. How many deaths are acceptable?

        After all the nonsense when the ACA was enacted, the great irony here is that the Republican party is the party of death panels.

    • Submitted by Tom Quinn on 05/01/2020 - 10:35 am.

      The statistics you site are after a period of closings and isolation. Are you claiming that these low numbers are not the result of this isolation? That without the isolation they would be about the same? But if you agree the numbers would have been higher, do you know for a fact that they wouldn’t have been as dire as the epidemiologists predicted?

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 05/01/2020 - 10:35 am.

      That repeating of “underlying health issues” and the continued drumbeat on how old those people are is very revealing. Not naming the exact price, but going with the premise of those lives are worth less. Gazelka, the pious majority leader who is always bringing up the sanctity of life, is the poster boy for that hypocrisy.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 05/01/2020 - 11:02 am.

        Yesterday at Walz presser on COVID 19 one of his experts said over 98% of all deaths in Minnesota were from people with multiple comorbidities. That is just another way of saying underlying health issues. Whether you want to believe it or not COVID 19 is not a threat to healthy people. That is why when this is over and the numbers come out 80%+ will have had no symptoms or mild symptoms, which they thought was a cold. Children are not being hospitalized at all with this. Time to stop the panic and report the truth behind this virus.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/01/2020 - 02:45 pm.

      The numbers are lower than expected BECAUSE of the precautions. I don’t know why this is so difficult.

  4. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 05/01/2020 - 11:17 am.

    As I understand it, the uptick in cases is due to the meatpacking plant in Worthington. And outstate MN has virtually none. So we continue to lock down everyone. MN is mostly small business, and you are killing them. “Up North” has a short window to survive. Open the window so they can.
    It is far safer to go into a small business than a big box any day. And you let them all open. So please do the right thing and lets move forward

    • Submitted by Elsa Mack on 05/01/2020 - 01:42 pm.

      Last I heard, the people “Up North” were telling all the city folks to please stay home, since rural populations tend to be elderly and there are fewer hospitals and other medical resources.

      If the Covid numbers in Cook County, Lake County, etc. remain low, it’s not because they have some magical immunity. It’s because those places have been locked down. Open it up, welcome all us city folks and our money and our microbes, and those numbers may change fast.

  5. Submitted by Delbor Raymondo on 05/01/2020 - 04:36 pm.

    We have 1200 icu beds with another thousand if we need them. Currently we are using about 118 icu beds for coronavirus, yet we have to stay locked up until the experts say it’s ok to come out.

    Yet Osterholm is saying we, or 60% of we, will be getting it anyway. Maybe the state could loosen up a little quicker. Or will we still be locked down on Labor Day?

  6. Submitted by Kim Lee on 05/07/2020 - 03:14 pm.

    I understand Governor Walz is trying to err on the side of caution BUT he is also taking away our liberties and giving us the credit for having autonomy and common sense. Government is here to protect our rights not take them away. We seem to be living in a “nanny” state and should be outraged. Those who are afraid of getting sick, pandemic or no, should wear masks, stay home, whatever and let the rest of us live our lives, become exposed and immune. Walz and a lot of others are acting like we are all going to the ICU or going to die. which doesn’t appear to be the case, even the numbers he’s talking about. It’s all possibility which isn’t reality. In the meantime people’s very lives, physical and mental health are being destroyed. You tell me, is this reaction and constant fear mongering going to have lasting and long term effects? Every year are we going to be sheltered in place for fear people are going to get sick and die? Is everyone going to be expected to drink the “Koolaid”, take the vaccine or more repercussions? Protect those who need protecting and let the rest of us go back to our lives. Damage is done but it doesn’t have to get worse and worse. Thank you.

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