The Potluck

Gov. Walz says he isn’t ready to issue a shelter-in-place order yet

By: - March 23, 2020 2:49 pm

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced a pair of initiatives aimed at helping people enroll in health insurance coverage during the COVID-19 coverage and help emergency workers find child care. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is not yet prepared to join his counterparts in states like Ohio, Michigan and California who have issued shelter-in-place orders, but he said Monday such an order here would likely have to span at least several weeks to be effective.

Walz, who has already taken steps like closing dine-in services at restaurants and bars, said he is not yet convinced that formally ordering Minnesotans to stay home, except for essential activities, would be effective at this point.

He has consulted other governors about their shelter-in-place orders, and the state health department is using data to model the potential effects of increased restrictions on the virus’ spread, Walz said.

“The questions I’m asking is, ‘How do we get social compliance, where people can do this for a longer time period?’,” Walz said. “[Many think] if we just shut everything down, don’t move anybody, in two weeks this passes. That is incorrect.” 

The first-term governor also ordered another string of actions Monday aimed at alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including establishing a small business loan program, ordering a count of protective gear for health workers and banning evictions.

As many as 5,000 small businesses are eligible for the state loan program. Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said the department has $30 million to help businesses affected by the pandemic while they wait for federal loans.

Qualifying businesses will receive interest-free loans between $2,500 and $35,000, Grove said. Walz’s executive order also allows local governments with revolving loan funds to make loans available to retail and service providers for the next 90 days.

As the state faces a shortage of protective gear for health care workers and ventilators and respirators, Walz directed non-hospital health care facilities to report their inventory of these devices to the state and either preserve them or donate them to a local coordinating agency.

Across Minnesota, 235 people had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, and one person — a Ramsey County resident in their 80s — has died, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Several prominent Minnesota politicians have shared that they and their families have been afflicted by COVID-19. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan’s brother, Ron, died Saturday in Tennessee, becoming the second death in that state caused by COVID-19, Flanagan wrote on Instagram.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s husband, John, tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized, Klobuchar wrote in a statement published Monday. Walz, who conducted a news briefing by phone on Monday, is under self-quarantine for 14 days after learning Sunday night that a member of his security detail had tested positive for the disease.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.