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Walz to let Minnesota’s stay-at-home order expire, extends state of emergency another 30 days

Gov. Tim Walz
Screen shot
Wednesday’s address is the latest iteration of Gov. Tim Walz's exercise of emergency powers first declared on March 13 and now extended twice.

Gov. Tim Walz dialed back Minnesota’s stay at home order by allowing non-essential businesses and retailers to reopen with social distancing rules and letting gatherings of 10 or fewer people resume, effective May 18.

In a televised speech Wednesday, the governor said he is still keeping bars, restaurants, gyms and salons closed, though his administration is developing plans for those businesses reopen at least partially by June 1.

Walz also informed legislative leaders that he is extending by another 30 days his declaration of peacetime emergency.

“We have continued to implement policies and exercise emergency powers to protect the health and safety of all Minnesotans,” he wrote. “ As COVID-19 cases and fatalities continue to increase, our emergency efforts must also continue. As a result, I have determined that there is a need to extend the peacetime emergency for an additional 30 days, until June 12, 2020.”

Wednesday’s address is the latest iteration of the governor’s exercise of emergency powers first declared on March 13 and now extended twice. Under the powers granted him, Walz has issued more than 50 executive orders, including the closure of public gathering places and a stay-at-home order.

Under state law, the orders must be ratified by the five-member state Executive Council made up of Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon and Auditor Julie Blaha. The council was scheduled to meet after the speech Wednesday.

The law also gives the Legislature an opportunity to rescind the declaration of emergency, but that would require a majority of both the GOP-controlled Senate and the DFL-controlled House. That is unlikely to happen. If Walz extends the emergency again in mid-June, he is required to call the Legislature back into session to give it the opportunity to cancel the declaration. 

“We know there’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota,” Walz said. “But we’ve prepared for it. We’ve successfully pushed out and reduced the peak of this virus. We’ve made great progress to treat Minnesotans who fall ill.” 

He credited adherence to early stay at home orders and closures for saving the lives of residents.

He called his next steps a “measured Minnesota approach.”

“We’re not flipping a switch and everything’s going back to normal at once,” he said. “We’re slowly moving the dial and introducing more interaction between people over time.” 

That includes the reopening of stores with reduced capacity and allowing non-essential businesses to reopen with social distancing protocols in place. It also includes allowing stores in shopping malls to open, though the state is working on rules for common spaces in malls.

Gatherings of 10 or fewer in social settings, at ceremonies and in religious settings will be allowed. People in those settings should wear face masks, keep six feet apart and practice other recommended hygiene steps, however. 

“Stay close to home, limit travel to what’s essential,” he asked. “But we can now gather with friends and family in groups of less than 10. This CDC guidance in all cases is asing Minnesotans not to gather in large groups — whether a backyard barbecue or a religious meeting at a church, synagogue or mosque are limited to 10 and require social distancing.”

He also said his Cabinet would continue to work with businesses about finding ways and rules to let public gathering places such as restaurants, gyms and salons to reopen. Walz said that could come by June 1.

Why are restaurants treated differently from retail stores? Walz said health officials tell him that walking through a store briefly to shop is safer than sitting down in a crowded restaurant. Generally, the governor said activities are riskier when you are closer to people and around others for a longer period of time.

Walz warned that if infections increase or hotspots develop, he will quickly act to dial back on public gatherings. “This can go in a bad direction very quickly,” he said. “We must keep this virus at a simmer, not a boil.”

And he called on residents to do their part after health care workers and first responders did their part during the closures.

“We can make this turn of the dial and keep people safe if we can trust each other to continue to be cautious,” he said. 

While Walz said he wants business owners to create safe at work plans, he also signed an executive order protecting workers who complain about unsafe conditions from retaliation. 

And he asked at-risk populations — those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions — to continue to stay home and keep away from gatherings. At the same time, the governor asked other residents to reach out to those with health challenges to stay in touch and help them get the supplies they need.

“We know more people will get sick and some will end up in the hospital. We’ve prepared for that inevitably,” with ICUs ventilators and PPE and plans for long-term care and hot spots.

“But we’ve got work to do to continue to control the spread of the virus. We will test people and find out where the virus is spreading. … So yes, the stay at home order is expiring and the dials are turning. But that doesn’t mean we’re carefree and can return to the way things were.”

And while he is not ordering the wearing of masks in public settings, Walz stressed that their use could help keep these opening steps from being reversed.

“Not wearing a mask is not a sign of rebellion,” he said in a press call after his speech. “It’s just hurting your neighbor. I get it that people are frustrated with the shutdown. But the way to protest that is to yell at me or whatever. But not wearing a mask makes it worse.”

The reaction to Walz’s announcement among other politicians and business leaders was mostly positive.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said. “This is really good news. I’m glad that he listened to us and I feel like we led the way. Now it’s up to us, you and me, that we practice safe distancing. I have every confidence we’re going to be able to do it. Minnesota is back on track.”

House Speaker Melissa Hortman echoed Walz’s call for the public to make this work. “We have a responsibility to be considerate of each other and do the things that are smart and proven to reduce transmission of this deadly disease,” she said. “Minnesotans have trusted Gov. Walz through this crisis and he has done an excellent job. Now he is putting his trust and his faith in the people of Minnesota.” 

Doug Loon, the president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, was also supportive. “Today’s announcement is welcome news for businesses throughout the state who are eager to get our economy moving again.” Loon said. “Those who have not yet opened their physical doors have been taking responsible steps to design safe work environments and inspire consumer confidence. We’re thankful that they will now have that opportunity.”

One criticism came from Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, who said the union has “reservations with the timing of lifting the state’s shelter-in-place orders at a time when hospitals continue to dangerously ration PPE, new supply lines have not appeared in state warehouses, and the Minnesota Department of Health still cannot show that testing has dramatically increased.

“Nurses believe that the decision to turn the dial to re-open Minnesota requires every Minnesotan to turn the dial to find more PPE, more beds, and more tests while protecting health care workers and each other.”

Comments (34)

  1. Submitted by ian wade on 05/13/2020 - 09:39 pm.

    Gazelka- ” I feel like we led the way.”
    Yeah, right…

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/15/2020 - 09:23 am.

      This would be the same Paul Gazelka who also subscribes to “Pray away the gay” and sent a family member to Marcus Bachmann for “treatment”.

      At its’ base, this is a science crisis and listening to the guidance of science deniers won’t get us very far…

  2. Submitted by Eric House on 05/14/2020 - 08:49 am.

    It is pretty cheeky of Rep. Gazelka to try and take credit for the Governor’s actions after spending the past two months doing everything in his power to thwart public heath actions.

  3. Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/14/2020 - 09:10 am.

    “if we can trust each other to be cautious”

    This seems pretty unlikely, given that Trump and the conservative movement have openly encouraged an effective rebellion against science-based public health measures and essentially made the county ungovernable, as Connor O’Tingsdale predicts above.

    Flouting all CDC guidelines and “rules” will become a badge of honor for “conservatives” almost immediately, much like the proud display of high powered weaponry wearing camo outfits was during the (2nd Amendment-sponsored) protests in many states.

    The Covid crisis has quite definitely shown that, thanks to the conservative movement, the country is now quite ungovernable, at both the state and national levels. Pious proclamations about everyone “pulling together” are now ironic dark comedy.

    The election of 2016 will be seen by historians as the breaking point of the modern United States of America.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 05/14/2020 - 09:28 am.

    Maybe Governor Walz can talk to bordering States and ask them what they are doing better. Minnesota, with a death rate of 11 per 100,000 people, is more than double of the Dakotas and much worse than Wisconsin and Iowa . That is an apples to apples comparison on deaths per 100k people. Sometimes when you’re struggling getting advice from folks outperforming you helps.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/14/2020 - 09:43 am.

      Specious comparisons. If you want to understand the data you need to examine it by population density.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 05/14/2020 - 10:53 am.

        How about our horrific LTC data? Can’t blame that on population density.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/14/2020 - 12:04 pm.

          Sure you can, but you won’t as it doesn’t fit the narrative. I’m curious though, what exactly would you do differently to prevent the spread of the disease in LTC facilities, especially if you happen to be for letting the virus go wild amongst the rest of the population? Testing efficacy is not high enough to ensure that a falsely negative staff member can’t slip in, and the residents need to be fed and medically cared for daily. The building must be maintained. There is no realistic method for isolating these facilities from the outside world, and if even 10% of the staff becomes ill, there will be catastrophic shortages of workers. If one truly cares about the plight of the elderly in these facilities, one would be advocating shut downs until such time as a vaccine can be procured, if not, one is simply attempting to sanitize the position that it is necessary and desirable that these populations be sacrificed to preserve the economy.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 05/14/2020 - 02:42 pm.

            Matt, so you are saying that Minnesota, leading the nation by far in LTC deaths at 81.6% of the States deaths, is doing a bang up job? What to do differently, maybe identify that LTC facilities is where the virus is devastating Minnesotans and put a plan together before 2 1/2 months go by. I for one, has been hitting on this problem for months, why wasn’t the State Experts doing the same thing?

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/14/2020 - 04:03 pm.

              What’s that plan Joe? I’ve heard you talk about the “plan”, it’s true, it’s the lack of anything past that talking point that’s at issue.

              • Submitted by joe smith on 05/14/2020 - 05:23 pm.

                With 81.6% of all deaths being in LTC facilities, first you have to recognize that is where the problem is. Second, you have to allot the money towards helping the LTC facilities. Third, you put the homes on lockdown, no one in without temperature being checked as far as workers, family visits inside of home are stopped, test patients at first sign of virus and move anyone with COVID 19 to a designated hospital (hospitals have gone broke with no one in them). That plan saved thousands of lives in Florida, Walz should have called the state with the most seniors in America (Florida) and asked for help. Problem was as much points one and two as it was three in Minnesota.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/15/2020 - 09:49 am.

                  Temperature checks do nothing to stop asymptomatic carriers, they are a placation technique. Who is going to care for the sick patients that you’ve moved to your hypothetical isolation ward? How are the residents in your “locked down” facilities going to be fed and treated for their usual health concerns? Who is going to clean, and maintain the facilities. Keep in mind, even 1 missed case of infection among anyone allowed in for these services leads to dozens of dead residents, and that allowing the virus to run rampant in society virtually guarantees that this will occur, by ensuring that almost everyone else will be infected.

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/14/2020 - 12:17 pm.

          Come on. The larger the city, the more LTC facilities, generally.

          It appears MN has suffered more here than other states, but I’m not sure. It has been reported that other states do not seem to have as high a percent of Covid deaths attributed to LTC, but that just means that conservatives in those states do not have the talking point that those in MN have….

          • Submitted by joe smith on 05/14/2020 - 02:50 pm.

            BK, not to be redundant but Minnesota has a death rate of LTC patients being 81.6% of all deaths in our State…. No other State is close to that percentage. So again I will ask, why not get advice from States doing better…. That should be easy, there are 49 of them to ask!

            • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 05/14/2020 - 10:08 pm.

              “When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”

              — President Donald Trump, 5/14/20

              Joe, based on your expertise in this matter to what extent is testing revealing more cases and thus more deaths attributed to Covid-19? Are other states testing residents in LTC facilities as aggressively as Minnesota?

          • Submitted by cory johnson on 05/15/2020 - 12:55 pm.

            Florida is doing much better than Minnesota per capita in terms of cases and deaths. That’s even with higher population density and an evil Republican governor.

            • Submitted by ian wade on 05/15/2020 - 02:53 pm.

              Yeah, over 1,800 dead so far. Take that, libs.

              • Submitted by cory johnson on 05/15/2020 - 06:44 pm.

                You’ll have to look up per capita in the dictionary.
                Also the ICU admissions in Florida have gone down since they began Phase 1 of reopening a couple weeks ago. I see even Cuomo has chosen to follow Florida’s lead and begin reopening certain areas of the state that haven’t been hit as hard by coronavirus. He must also want people to die so he can get a haircut.

                • Submitted by ian wade on 05/15/2020 - 10:34 pm.

                  I’m well aware of the definition of per capita. My point is that I find it pathetic that conservatives are trying to treat this like some sort of football game. People are dying and families are grieving. Meanwhile, Trump supporters are desperately trying to find some sort of self worth by claiming specious statistics in order to create a false narrative.
                  It’s disgusting.

                  • Submitted by cory johnson on 05/20/2020 - 05:58 pm.

                    The statistics are accurate, not specious. Again, definition of words matter. I’m also worried about the loss of life that has occurred because of the Walz administration’s poor handling of this crisis. I’m merely pointing out a much better way to handle the situation.

            • Submitted by Betsy Larey on 05/17/2020 - 08:48 am.

              That is a fact. I am a florida resident, just got back 2 days ago. Had I known this shutdown was extended thru June 1 I would have stayed there. I honestly believe it has something to do with sunshine and warm temps. Feel free to call me crazy.

    • Submitted by Kevin Schumacher on 05/19/2020 - 03:42 pm.

      Joe, I am not sure I have a lot of faith in cross-state comparisons, given variations in state policy on determining cause of death. I agree with you about infections and mortal threat in care facilities needing more focus, but I sense that the issues are more complex than simple comparisons. Sister towns of Moorhead and Fargo have substantial differences in death rates overall, including in care facilities, with Fargo (unfortunately) leading the way, and many, many citizens of both states are crossing the Red River each day. I guess your point is to criticize the Walz administration, and that is OK, but please quit whining about opening the state up and drawing conclusions about cause and effect without considering all of the variables. leave the naive oversimplification to the guy that said anyone who wants a test can get a test.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/14/2020 - 10:36 am.

    “I’m glad that he listened to us and I feel like we led the way.”

    “The fly sat upon the axle-tree of the chariot wheel, and said, What a dust do I raise!”

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 05/14/2020 - 03:39 pm.

      I like that. Did you fashion that yourself?

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/16/2020 - 10:09 pm.

      Well, opening up has been the Senate’s idea for weeks and now that the Governor agrees, it does appear that the Senate voice did help prod the Governor along. Either way, credit (and blame) go exclusively to the Governor as you say. Blood on his hands as liberals like to say…

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/18/2020 - 08:59 am.

        But no blood on the hands of those who have been pushing the idea and “prodding” the Governor in that direction?

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/18/2020 - 05:11 pm.

          Well no, as you can see from the thread Senator Gazelka should get absolutely no credit for the Governor’s decision. That being the case, it appears that all blame must fall on the Governor. The other commenters disparaging the Majority Leader made the rules so we follow them. Sadly.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/19/2020 - 10:48 am.

            Take your pick. You can either join in Senator Gazelka’s triumphalist crowing about prodding Governor Walz, or, based on a few comments here, conclude that it’s all on the Governor’s head.

            • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/19/2020 - 11:27 pm.

              I think that the Senator’s constant prodding of the Governor did influence the Governor’s decision to open things earlier than he would have on his own, but I bow to the superior intellects of the commenters and concede that the Governor made the decision on his own.

          • Submitted by ian wade on 05/19/2020 - 01:12 pm.

            This is an exact quote from Gazelka – ” I feel like we led the way.”

            • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/19/2020 - 11:31 pm.

              As I said above, I believe that the Senator was the leader in opening things up, but he had no power to do so, only the power to give his opinion as Senate Majority leader. The intellectuals here say that Senator Gazelka is blowing his own horn over something he had nothing to do with. The Governor is the only person with the power and, again, I concede that he made the decision all on his own and that all consequences, good and bad, belong to him and him alone.

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