Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on April 8 extended the statewide stay-at-home order until 11:59 p.m. on May 3 in an effort to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Walz first issued the stay-at-home order on March 25, which went into effect on March 27. It was set to end on April 10, before the governor extended it for another three weeks.
“What we are doing is working, Minnesota,” Walz said in an April 8 news release. “We are taking this seriously, and we are staying home. While Minnesota is showing lower rates of infections than our peers across the country, now is not the time to let up or allow that trajectory to change. Updated federal guidance and our own public health experts are showing that if we keep staying home, we will save lives — which is why I made the data-driven decision to extend the stay home order until May 4.”
The stay-at-home order, Executive Order 20-33, is forecast to slow the spread of the virus and push out the peak, allowing for "important" preparations for the pandemic, the release said. Among the preparations: increasing hospital capacity, buying ventilators and masks, expanding testing, planning for how to protect people who are most at risk, and giving time for health care providers like the Mayo Clinic to develop treatments for the virus.
Walz's order also extends the closure of bars, restaurants and public accommodations through May 4. These establishments were first closed to dine-in customers on March 17.
CHANGES TO CRITICAL SECTOR WORKERS
The order states all workers who can work from home must work from home, unless they are in the critical sector — health care workers, public safety officials, food and agriculture workers, child care providers, among a slew of other industries that can be found at mn.gov/deed/critical/ — and cannot do their work from home.
This order does modify who is considered a critical sector worker, a state document shows, listing industries like lawncare and landscaping workers as critical, so people like maintenance workers at golf courses and workers supporting garden centers or stores can return to work, provided they adhere to Minnesota Department of Agriculture guidance.
The governor has instructed his commissioners and state agencies to develop protocols for allowing non-critical sector workers to return to work when it is safe to do so. These protocols have not yet been announced.
‘IT’S NOT GOING TO BE A TYPICAL SUMMER’
The peak for cases in Minnesota has now been pushed to July, Walz said during a news conference on April 8, which is peak summer for many Minnesotans.
"We hesitate to say 'Let's just cancel summer,' but I think we do have to, again, learn how things progress and be smart about some social distancing strategies,” Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters.
Walz and state officials have been encouraging people to get outside and enjoy outdoor activities — but to be smart about it, so don’t go up to cabins because a surge in people could overwhelm rural hospitals.
“I hear you on these outdoor activities,” Walz said, noting he’s heard from people wondering about being able to golf or if they’ll be allowed to get their boats out of storage so they can enjoy the lakes.
"It's not going to be a typical summer,” Walz added, “but I'm envisioning if we get this right, where we’re not driving people over, we’re being somewhat courteous to one another — again I can picture [Lake] Minnetonka being overrun with people who would have normally some gone up north all on one small lake. We're certainly not going to have the party barges coming together, but we’re going to have to think about it and we’re going to have to come together.”
Walz said state agencies will issue more guidance on the expansion of some activities, noting they’re listening to people and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
AG WILL USE 'FULL ENFORCEMENT POWER'
Following the extension of the stay-at-home order on April 8, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement of support for Walz's executive order and urged Minnesotans to voluntarily comply with it.
"If there are non-exempted businesses that do not comply with the order, however, I will use the full enforcement power that the order extends to my office to ensure that they do," Ellison said in a statement. “Continuing to stay home is how we care for ourselves and each other. Minnesotans will get through this together, as we always do.”
The executive order authorizes that in addition to any criminal penalties that may apply for violating the order, the attorney general and city and county attorneys may seek civil relief pursuant to state law, including civil penalties up to $25,000 per occurrence from businesses and injunctive relief.