Giving his daily briefing from his residence via the telephone, Gov. Tim Walz offered several executive orders to take effect immediately due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Walz, who is quarantined because his personal bodyguard has tested positive for the virus, signed into law an executive order placing a moratorium on evictions in the state and another opening up loans for the state’s many small businesses.
“It would be personally cruel to execute evictions during this time and it would also be counterproductive to what we're trying to do with social distancing," said the governor.
The rapidly evolving crisis has ramped up numbers of known infected in Minnesota to 235 as of earlier today. Over the weekend the state realized its first COVID-related death. Of those who have tested positive, 21 have been hospitalized with 12 still under hospital care – five of them in intensive care.
“Keep in mind, these are lab tested numbers. We know more cases are out there in Minnesota and the virus in continuing to spread,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
Malcolm said a daily public health hotline is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by calling (651) 201-3920.
Walz said he is not prepared to announce a “shelter in place” or stay at home order, but he said that is a last option as the virus spreads.
“Forty to 80 percent of us are going to get this (virus),” said Walz. “This is a very hard decision and all governors are agonizing over this.”
Another of the governor’s executive orders was to open up funds via the Small Business Administration to businesses in the state. Loans range from $2,500 to $35,000 and would be paid back at zero percent interest with a 50 percent forgiveness.
“This will help bridge the gap in these challenging times,” said DEED Commissioner Joe Kelly.
Kelly said the economic affect of the current health crisis is clearly being felt. According to Kelly, 123,624 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment due to COVID-19. Those who need to file for unemployment can do so online at www.uimn.org.
When asked about the thought process in making critical decisions during the crisis the governor indirectly took exception to a tweet from President Donald Trump. Trump tweeted out Monday morning, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” The tweet was in reference to easing some of the current restrictions on personal movement, suggesting the limited social contacts were somehow more destructive than the deadly virus.
“When people say the cure is worse than the disease I kind of have a hard time telling that to Lt. Gov. (Peggy) Flanagan,” said the governor.
Flanagan’s brother, Ron, died due to the COVID-19 virus. Her brother, who was living in Tennessee, had a compromised immune system due to a recent cancer diagnosis.
“We will all get through this together, but it’s going to be a while,” said Walz.