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'Buckle it up Minnesota'

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Walz announces statewide stay at home order

BY  JAKOB KOUNKEL STAFF WRITER

       Editor’s note: This information is as of March 26. 
FOLEY – Gov. Tim Walz doubled down on his administration’s coronavirus response with a two-week stay-at-home order as he asked Minnesotans not to leave their homes unless absolutely needed March 25.
The announcement was the most significant mitigation measure to date and is meant to build off previous novel coronavirus-related executive orders to keep social distancing and continue with the closure of bars, restaurants and other public spaces. The order also allows the Minnesota Department of Education to implement a distance-learning period starting March 30 and ending May 4.
“We’re asking you because it’s going to take cooperation and collaboration – stay home,” Walz said.
The emergency executive order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. March 27 and extends through 5 p.m. April 10. It is meant to be a strict action to further encourage extreme social distancing and keep homeowners in place as much as possible while also suspending large gatherings.
Walz said the order could be extended if necessary.
“I want to be clear,” he said. “There is not magic around a two-week period. We have weighed out the variables here. We believe at this point, as of today, that buys us enough time. We may have to see what’s happening with production lines to adjust that accordingly. … (But) we owe it to you to have this as compressed as we possibly can, to use the time wisely and allow us to move on.”
The goal of the order is to buy time to increase supplies and intensive care unit beds available in the state, not necessarily to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“It’s too late to flatten the curve as we talked about,” Walz said. “The testing regimen was not in place soon enough to be able to do that.”
Significant mitigation measures produce more favorable outcomes to extend the amount of time it takes to reach the peak of the pandemic in Minnesota. Through Walz’s actions, the time to peak pandemic extends to 14 weeks as opposed to nine weeks if no mitigation measures were taken.
If the action is successful and extends peak infection rates to 14 weeks, it will give the state government time to build out hospital capacity, increase testing and bolster the state’s supply of life-saving equipment like ventilators and personal protective equipment.
Minnesota has 235 ICU beds available, but Walz said with more time, the state can work to convert gyms, hotels and stadiums into ICU facilities.
As of Thursday, Minnesota had confirmed 346 COVID-19 cases in people ages 5 months to 104 years, two of which resulted in death. Forty-one patients have been hospitalized.
Walz stressed the seriousness of the pandemic and expressed why mitigation measures are important. He said within the next 18 months, 85% of the Minnesota population will experience non-hospitalization symptoms; 15% will be hospitalized and 5% will end up in the ICU. If ICU beds are available as needed, people have 10 times the rate of survival, Walz said.
“If we just let this thing run its course and did nothing, upwards of 74,000 Minnesotans could be killed by this,” Walz said.
But, he reiterated, the stay-at-home order only buys the state time.
“Just to be clear, a shelter in place simply moves the date out,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything in terms of reducing the infection rates unless we have either a vaccine, therapeutics, or increased ICU capacity. You’re still going to get the same results, just at a later time.”
While continuing to practice social distancing, Walz listed various reasons Minnesotans can leave their homes: health and safety activities, outdoor activities, retrieving necessary supplies and services, essential and interstate travel, care of others, displacement and relocation to ensure safety.
The list of essential workers exempt from the stay-at-home order includes employees in the fields of public health, law enforcement and public safety, child care, food and agriculture, news media, water and wastewater, energy, and critical manufacturing. Though not a comprehensive list, Walz said these are workers who provide critical services to the people of Minnesota. He also acknowledged other fields while not considered essential services are still vital to Minnesota’s economy.
Identified as essential or not, Walz urged people to telework as much as possible.
“The attempt here is to strike a proper balance of making sure that our economy can function, we protect the most vulnerable, we slow the rate to buy us time and build out our capacity to deal with this,” Walz said.
Walz said Minnesota is as prepared as any state to handle COVID-19.
“Minnesotans, we’re in this together,” he said. “I’m asking you to buckle it up for a few more weeks here. I’m asking our manufacturers to step it up and provide for the ICUs. We’re going to draw on all of the resources we have and make sure we get through this together.”
Natasha Barber contributed to this article. 
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