by CHRIS ROGERS
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz ordered Minnesotans to shelter in place for two weeks starting this Friday at midnight. This will buy Minnesota precious time to build temporary hospital beds and intensive care units (ICUs) that will save lives, the governor said in a video announcing the order on Wednesday.
What does that mean?
The order effectively shuts down non-essential industries and requires all Minnesotans to leave their residences only for essential errands and to stay six feet apart from others when they do leave home. It starts on Friday, March 27, at 11:59 p.m. and ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 10.
Essential businesses include:
- “Healthcare and public health;
- Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders;
- Emergency shelters, congregate living facilities, drop-in centers;
- Child care;
- Food and agriculture;
- News media;
- Water and wastewater; and
- Critical manufacturing.”
This is not a full list. A complete list may be found in the full executive order, and the state said clarifications will be available here.
Under the order, “Minnesotans may leave their residences only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies;
- Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing;
- Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out;
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state;
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household;
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home;
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons;
- Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation.”
“This does not mean you can’t step out of the house,” Walz said. He encouraged people to continue jogging, for instance, but to stay apart from others when they do.
Walz: “I’m asking you to sacrifice” to save lives
“I know how painful this is,” Walz said of the economic impact of his decision. “If I’m asking you to sacrifice — I’m asking businesses to sacrifice — we’re doing everything we can to provide a safety net,” he continued. It is all being done to save lives, he said. Pointing to estimates that 74,000 Minnesotans could die from COVID-19 in a worst-case scenario without closing businesses, Walz said, “When we look at those numbers, 74,000 of our neighbors — that’s unacceptable. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Walz’s announcement signaled a new phase in the state’s defense against the new coronavirus.
It is too late to “flatten the curve” and stop a massive surge of COVID-19 cases from coming to Minnesota eventually, but together we can delay that surge long enough to make sure Minnesota has the ICU beds that thousands will need, the governor said.
“It’s too late to flatten the curve. The testing regime was not in place soon enough for us to do that,” Walz stated. Instead, implementing more stringent but temporary restrictions on person-to-person contact will give the state the time it needs to prepare for the coming surge of hospitalizations, he said.
If Minnesota had done nothing to slow COVID-19, the demand for ICU beds would have spiked to 6,000 beds within six weeks and 2.4 million Minnesotans would have gotten infected, the governor said, citing models from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Health.
With all of the social distancing Minnesota is already doing and the new shelter in place order, the state can delay peak demand for ICU beds until 11 weeks from now, Walz stated. “You’re still going to see the same numbers. You’re still going to see on day 150 or so, two million of us would have had this at one point or another,” he said.
In the meantime, Minnesota will use every minute it has to build temporary hospital beds, manufacture respirators, make masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), and increase testing capacity, the governor explained. “That will buy us enough time that, working with the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers, we will be able to transfer our arenas and stadiums into hospitals,” Walz said. “We’re using every minute today to step up that supply line on PPEs, on testing,” he stated. State officials said they are working with Minnesota businesses to help ramp up manufacturing of the needed equipment.
“Minnesotans, we’re in this together,” Walz said. “I’m asking you to buckle it up for a few more weeks. I’m asking our manufacturers to step up and provide for the ICU units … And we’ll get through this together.”