Gov. Tim Walz declares state of peacetime emergency as number of COVID-19 cases grows

    walz emergency
    Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency to response to the widening outbreak of COVID-19 on March 13, 2020. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

    Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials on Friday issued a “peacetime emergency” declaration in response to the widening COVID-19 outbreak, issuing recommendations that call for curtailing large gatherings with more than 250 people.

    The number of confirmed cases in the state is now 14.

    Walz sought to project calm, explaining that the emergency declaration allows state officials to more nimbly respond to the growing public health emergency.

    We are entering a “heightened state of readiness,” Walz said.

    Minnesota’s Department of Health recommends cancelling or postponing all events in venues where social distancing of 6 feet or more is not feasible

    Additionally, state health officials are urging health care facilities and assisted-living facilities to limit and screen visitors to avoid the infection of more vulnerable populations, which include senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions.

    Under the new guidelines, state health officials are not calling for the closure of schools, but that could change. “As the situation evolves there may be points where specific or broad closures would be ordered,” the Health Department said in a news release.

    The recommendations to avoid large gatherings will not affect the operations of places that regularly draw large crowds like airports, libraries, shopping malls or grocery stores.

    “We know these strategies will impact the lives of all Minnesotans, but we are hopeful we can reduce the impacts of this outbreak by working together,” said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

    Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also addressed reporters, saying legislative leaders are considering banning price gouging.

    This story is developing and will be updated with more details.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.