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.