Minnesota will join neighbor Wisconsin and other states in combating the COVID-19 pandemic with a “stay at home” order, beginning on Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz made the announcement during a video presentation on Wednesday, March 25. In the presentation, Walz explained the reasoning for making this order. Citing health experts at the University of Minnesota and state health experts, Walz explained that if no action was taken to combat COVID-19, Minnesota would reach a peak number of people infected in approximately nine weeks. More alarming to the governor, however, was that peak ICU capacity would be reached in six weeks, which would create a death toll of 74,000.
As he was presenting the information, Walz emphasized that “stay at home” and social distancing would not decrease the number of people infected, which is predicted to be 80% of the population, with 15% requiring hospitalization and 5% requiring ICU care. However it would buy the state enough time to increase the number of ICU stations, which could be placed in arenas, gyms or hotels. The governor noted that when people who are most severely afflicted with the virus are provided with an ICU bed, their chances of survival is ten-times greater.
The governor laid out a three-tiered directive that he says will buy the state enough time.
1. All Minnesotans are asked to “shelter in place” for two weeks, beginning on March 27 and running through April 10.
2. For three weeks following that, he is asking residents continue with physical distancing.
3. Finally, physical distancing should continue for those who are vulnerable to the virus for several additional weeks.
As part of this directive, bars, restaurants and other public accommodations will remain closed until May 1. Schools will begin their distance learning curriculum on Monday, March 30 and continue it through May 4.
What does it mean?
Walz emphasized that people are not being confined to their homes. “This does not mean ‘don’t step out of your house,’” he said.
Residents can still participate in health and safety activities and other outdoor activities such as going for walks. Grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses that provide necessary goods and services will still be open to the public. People can still perform essential and interstate travel, as well as care for others.
When talking about getting outside, Walz mentioned how he enjoyed seeing photos of neighborhoods getting together to do things such as group fitness, while maintaining the six-foot minimum social distancing.
“That’s the Minnesota way,” he said.
Walz also said essential employees such as healthcare and public health, law enforcement, child care, food and agriculture, news media, energy, water and wastewater, and critical manufacturing will still be able to perform their duties.
Impact on high school spring sports
Immediately following the governor’s press conference, the Minnesota State High School League announced that until the school closures are lifted, all spring activities, including competitions, training, practices, and scrimmages are suspended. The MSHSL is still holding open the possibility of conducting some form of a spring sports season should the school closures be lifted.
“No decisions regarding the cancellation of spring activities have been made at this time,” read a press release from the MSHSL.