Editor’s Note: This story will be updated frequently as the story develops. Last update: 3/22/2020, 1:30 pm.
The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota has risen to 235. On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz and members of the Minnesota Department of Health expounded on a number of measures to help prevent further spread of the virus.
Gov. Walz stopped short of issuing a “shelter-in-place” lockdown–like California, Pennsylvania and most recently, Illinois–that would direct residents to stay in their homes as officials utilize extreme measures to curb the spread. But he did strongly urge Minnesotans to stay at home.
He also thanked residents for their compassion and kindness towards one another, as well as grocery clerks and health care professionals on the frontlines of the virus.
Below find more info on the measures Gov. Walz announced on Friday:
Partnering with the YMCA to Provide Care for School-Age Children
Governor Tim Walz announced that the state of Minnesota will partner with the YMCA to care for the school-age children of emergency workers in Minnesota. The YMCA will open 38 locations across Minnesota to provide access to distance learning and care to children in kindergarten through sixth grade, coordinating with school districts.
Starting Monday, March 23 the YMCA sites will begin providing licensed care from 8:30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for children over five. The program will follow social distancing and cleaning guidelines from the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program will be prioritized for children of emergency workers, including educators, grocery store workers, utility workers, essential state and local government staff.
A full list of locations is available at ymcamn.org/mnchildcare. The cost is $40 per day and locations will coordinate with school districts on food drop-off sites. Registration is open and accessible at ymcamn.org/mnchildcare or 612-230-9622.
Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured Minnesotans
Governor Tim Walz and MNsure announced a 30-day special enrollment period (SEP) for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance in response to the potential growth of COVID-19 cases. This SEP, which begins Monday, March 23 and runs through April 21, will allow uninsured individuals 30 days to enroll in health insurance coverage through MNsure.org.
Individuals seeking coverage can visit MNsure.org to complete an application and enroll in coverage. Plans selected by April 21 will have a retroactive coverage start date beginning April 1.
- MNsure has a statewide network of expert assisters who can help Minnesotans apply and enroll, free of charge.
- MNsure’s online help tools can be used to access frequently requested services.
- The MNsure Contact Center is open between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday at 651-539-2099 or 855-366-7873.
Ensuring critical services continue for state’s most vulnerable
Governor Walz signed two executive orders today that will streamline access to public health programs and ensure the most vulnerable Minnesotans still have access to critical services during the COVID-19 crisis.
Executive Order 20-11 authorizes the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek federal authority to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements for federal programs, including but not limited to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, Medical Assistance, and MinnesotaCare, to ensure these programs continue providing necessary support to Minnesota families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Order 20-12 allows DHS to temporarily issue waivers or modifications to state requirements to ensure that their services can be delivered to Minnesotans safely and without undue delay, protecting vulnerable Minnesotans and those who care for them. DHS provides health care coverage, programs, and services for over 1 million Minnesotans, including groups likely to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 such as older adults, individuals who have disabilities, families with children, and individuals with mental illness.
Ban on Price Gouging
Governor Walz worked with Attorney General Keith Ellison to ban price gouging in Minnesota. Over the last weeks, across our state and country, there were reports of individuals trying to take advantage of their fellow citizens during this crisis. One store advertised hand sanitizer for $60 a bottle. A convenience store offered toilet paper at $10 a roll next to a sign reading: “This is not a joke.”
This behavior hurts Minnesotans. Executive Order 20-10 prohibits price gouging during the peacetime emergency. The order takes effect on Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 p.m.
Minnesotans can report instances of price gouging by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787. Callers can ask for a translator at these numbers as well. Complaints can be made online at www.ag.state.mn.us/office/
A number of measures involving “social distancing” have already been enacted to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota. First, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-01 declaring a peacetime emergency in Minnesota and unveiled legislative proposals to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 15, Gov. Walz signed Executive Order 20-02, authorizing the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools to students in order for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. From March 18 to at least March 27, public schools will be closed. Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will be closed until April 5.
Executive Order 20-06 exempts vehicles and drivers providing direct assistance for emergency relief efforts in response to COVID-19 from certain regulations including provisions on weight and hours of service.
After encouraging Minnesota companies to take action to support workers affected by COVID-19, Walz also signed Executive Order 20-07 providing paid leave for state employees who are not able to work for reasons related to COVID-19 and suspended the waiting period for insurance coverage for new employees. He also provided more flexibility for the Commissioner of Management and Budget to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation.
Gov. Walz signed Executive Order 20-03 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota’s Veterans Homes. This executive order allows Veterans Homes to protect residents and staff by temporarily restricting visitors, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread among residents.
By order of the governor, beginning March 17 at 5 pm, and continuing at least until March 27 at 5 pm, the following places of public accommodation are closed to members of the public:
- Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption, excluding institutional or in-house food cafeterias that serve residents, employees, and clients of businesses, child care facilities, hospitals, and longterm care facilities.
- Bars, taverns, brewpubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
- Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on-premises consumption.
- Theaters, cinemas, indoor and outdoor performance venues, and museums.
- Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, and spas.
- Amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.
- Country clubs, golf clubs, boating or yacht clubs, sports or athletic clubs, and dining clubs.
Places of public accommodation are encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing.
In offering food or beverage, a place of public accommodation subject to this section may permit up to five members of the public at one time in the place of public accommodation for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least 6 feet apart from one another while on the premises.
The restrictions do not apply to any of the following:
- Places of public accommodation that offer food and beverage not for on premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries.
- Health care facilities, child care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.
- Crisis shelters, soup kitchens, or similar institutions.
- Restaurants and food courts inside the secured zones of airports.
For all workplaces, it is important that employees assess themselves for symptoms regularly and go home right away if ill. All employees should practice careful and frequent hand hygiene, not touch their faces with unwashed hands and use respiratory etiquette.
Also, the CDC has issued the following recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19:
CDC recommends postponing and canceling until further notice:
- Events where 50 people or more would gather, including but not limited to:
- Professional, college, and school performances or sporting events.
- Other types of assemblies.
- Smaller events (fewer than 50 people) that are held in crowded auditoriums, rooms, or other venues that do not allow social distancing of 6 feet per person.
- Events with more than 10 people where the majority of participants are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including gatherings such as those at:
- Retirement facilities.
- Assisted living facilities.
- Developmental homes.
- Support groups for people with health conditions.
- Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
- More information is available at CDC: Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready.
Further details on recommendations can be found here.
Find more information on MDH’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website or call the public hotline at 651-201-3920, which is open from 7 am to 7 pm.
The MSR will continue to update this story as it develops.