In a briefing held Monday, March 23, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the latest projections indicate that 40-80 percent of Minnesotans will be infected with the coronavirus by the time the pandemic has run its course.
“We should assume that (COVID-19 is) in all of our communities,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in the briefing.
Walz held back on telling residents to shelter-in-place, as some states have done so, but did say “it is a possibility.”
Walz and other state officials are evaluating ongoing data to see how effective such an order would be, compared to other mitigation measures. Walz emphasized that there is a lack of data on social compliance and how sheltering will flatten the curve. He said those states that have enacted such an order are using their best judgment with the current data provided.
Walz further stated that if, in the event a shelter-in-place order was made, it would not mean that stores would close, rather more restrictive measures would be implemented to prevent further spreading. Products and services would remain available, he said.
“No one here in this administration is taking lightly the economic chaos that will come out of this,” Walz said.
Walz announced a program by executive order on Monday in which the state will loan money to small businesses hurt by coronavirus-related closures.
Businesses that qualify for the program can be loaned between $25,000-$35,000 with zero percent interest. This is intended to offset losses incurred by businesses after he ordered the closure of bars, restaurants and many other public establishments last week.
As of Monday afternoon, Minnesota health officials have confirmed 169 cases and one death. Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health cautioned that the actual number of cases could likely be 10 times that amount, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
On Monday also came news that Minnesota leadership has personally been affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Walz is self-quarantined, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s, D-Minn., husband has tested positive for COVID-19 and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan’s brother has passed away from the virus.
Flanagan’s brother, Ron, died from coronavirus Saturday, March 21 in Tennessee. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and had a compromised immune system.
“To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband. Ron was a tough-as-nails Marine who was a big teddy bear on the inside,” Flanagan said in an Instagram post.
Klobuchar announced Monday morning that her husband, John Bessler, has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I love my husband so very much and not being able to be there at the hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person.”
Bessler was experiencing cold-like symptoms while he was in Washington D.C. and immediately quarantined himself. His temperature was persistent and had a severe cough. Ultimately, he had a chest X-ray after he began coughing up blood. Bessler now has pneumonia and is on oxygen, but not a ventilator.
Klobuchar was advised by her doctor not to get a test as there is already a test shortage for people who need them. She and her husband have been in different places for the last two weeks and so she is outside of the 14-day period of getting sick.
“I know so many Americans are going through this and so much worse right now. So I hope and pray for you, just as I hope you will do for my husband. Meanwhile, I am working in the Senate to get help to the American people,” she said.
Later Monday morning, the Minnesota governor’s office released a statement that Gov. Tim Walz will self-quarantine for a period of 14 days after learning that he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“The most important thing Minnesotans can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home,” Walz said in a statement. “I’m using this as an opportunity to lead by example. Though I’m feeling healthy and not showing any symptoms, I’m going to work from home and model the protocol we are asking all Minnesotans to follow.”
Walz was in close proximity to an individual on his security detail late last week. The governor is not showing any symptoms but will begin his quarantine in his home on Monday until Monday, April 6. He will continue to oversee the state’s response to the COVID-19.
“I’m grateful for the State of Minnesota’s sophisticated emergency management operation that allows me to govern and respond to crises from the Minnesota Governor’s Residence,” Walz said. “We will continue to communicate with Minnesotans about our quick and aggressive work to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
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