Gov. Tim Walz on Friday declared a peacetime state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is increasingly having an effect on Minnesota. President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency not long after Walz.
At a briefing Friday afternoon, Walz described the declaration as "opening up the toolbox" of available government actions, being that a state of emergency declaration allows Walz and the state government the flexibility to enact action they would not otherwise be able to do in non-emergency times. Such actions, which include calling upon the National Guard and putting down a ban large assemblies, have not been enacted at this time.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm outlined a series of recommendations to citizens amid the declaration which include but are not limited to:
Canceling or postponing gatherings with 250 or more people as well as smaller gatherings in which guests could be within 6 feet of one another for 10 minutes or more; limiting attendance to such events; avoiding such events or unnecessary trips in public if you are a person who is at risk of experiencing the most adverse effects of COVID-19 (the elderly or those with underlying health conditions); switching to remote modes of communications and staggering employees' workplace presence whenever possible; and limiting visits to assisted living facilities or facilities that house people at higher risk. A complete list of recommendations can be found at the Health Department website at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html for more information or call the MDH COVID-19 Hotline at 651-201-3920.
In Belle Plaine, The Lutheran Home has begun restricting visitors to those with loved ones in hospice care or has a sensitive reason for the visit, according to a Lutheran Home statement. The Lutheran Home does not have evidence of infection at any of their facilities, and the measure is precautionary.
Walz at this time is not ordering the closings of any schools. As of 10:16 a.m. Friday, Belle Plaine Schools were not scheduled to close following the end of spring break. Walz stated that children and teens are at the lowest risk for COVID-19 and given the evidence across the world, closing schools has had no major effect on slowing the spread of the illness. However, Walz could at a later date order such closings if the situation called for it under the state of emergency declaration.
As of March 12, all non-essential gatherings, meetings, events, and activities hosted or convened by Scott County have been suspended until further notice.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 14 known cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, all of which seemed to have stemmed from travel. In two cases, the individuals were hospitalized, one with serious illness. The other is in relatively healthy condition.
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