As is the case across the country, Minnesota Government officials have taken an aggressive approach to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve summarized the Governor’s and Legislature’s activities to date. We will continue to update you as both the Walz Administration and Minnesota Legislature take further action.
Note: This information is current as of 12:00 p.m. on March 17, 2020.
The Minnesota Legislature passed an emergency COVID-19 funding bill last week that transfers nearly $21 million from the general fund to the public health response contingency account under Minnesota Statutes, section 144.4199. The bill also allows additional federal funds that may be forthcoming to be used without further legislative approval or delay.
Early on Tuesday, March 17, the legislature passed S.F. 4334, which released an additional $200 million to fight the outbreak. $50 million of the new funding is available through the same public health response contingency account as the initial funding from the week prior. The remaining $150 million is available as grants for primarily the same purposes, though this funding will have a longer approval process before being released. This legislation also temporarily loosened requirements related to telemedicine.
The Minnesota legislature is adjourned until Tuesday, April 14, unless legislative leaders jointly agree to return at an earlier date. The legislative leadership will also continue to work on three categories of items during the recess:
- Additional funding or policy related to COVID-19;
- Bonding and/or supplemental budget legislation; and
- Legislation with bipartisan agreement.
The third category is interesting, as leadership has left the door open to process noncontroversial measures during the recess, leaving hope for many who need to get legislation done.
Additionally, the legislative leadership indicated that they will be closely monitoring federal action and will take steps to comply with changes in the tax code or other federal measures.
Governor Statements and Executive Orders
1. Executive Order 20-01 On Friday, March 13, Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency. Governor Walz, Attorney General Ellison, and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm held a press conference to announce Executive Order 20-01. The highlights of the order are as follows:
- Minn. Stat. 12.31 sets out the legal framework for a peacetime emergency. It states in part:
- Subdivision 1—A peacetime emergency must not be continued for more than five days unless extended by resolution of the Executive Council up to 30 days. The Legislature may terminate a peacetime emergency extending beyond 30 days by a majority vote.
- Subdivision 2—This section authorizes the governor to exercise the powers and duties conferred and imposed by this chapter for a peacetime emergency and invokes the necessary portions of the state emergency operations plan developed pursuant to section 12.21, Subd. 3, relating to response and recovery aspects and may authorize aid and assistance under the plan.
- Subdivision 3—Minn. Stat. 12.21, subd. 3 provides the Governor with broad powers, including the authority to “make, amend, and rescind the necessary orders and rules” in response to the disaster. Subd. 3(1) and, Subd. 3 (11) give the MDE Commissioner the authority to close schools.
2. Attorney General Statement—The Attorney General outlined the statutory and legal support for calling a “Peacetime Emergency” as well as asked consumers to be on the lookout for scammers and price gougers.
3. Community Mitigation Strategies—Minnesota Department of Health outlined community mitigation strategies to limit the spread of the virus. The full guidance can be found here.
4. School Closure—On Sunday, March 15, Governor Walz, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Catherine Ricker, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove held a press conference regarding a temporary closure of all schools.
The Governor and Commissioners announced that the Governor had 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 for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools will be closed to students by Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27, to accommodate this planning between school staff, teachers, and administrators with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). More information can be found on the MDE website at MDE COVID-19 Information.
Notably, the closure is designed to allow schools to create “extended distance learning plans” in the event that schools need to be closed for a longer period of time. The Governor and MDH Commissioner reemphasized that children are at a very low risk for contracting COVID-19.
The Governor noted that the Executive Order requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers during previously planned school days, to ensure Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job.
5. Employers and Employees Information—On March 16, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-05 relating to unemployed workers. This Order suspends certain unemployment insurance program rules to provide immediate relief to employers and unemployed workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has information and guidance for employers and employees on their website. This information can be accessed by clicking here.
6. Bar and Restaurant Closure—On March 16, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-04, providing for temporary closure of bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation. Restaurants may remain open for takeout and delivery service only.
Federal Level Action
Wednesday, March 11—the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic. More than 135,000 cases have been reported globally, as well as more than 5,000 deaths.
Wednesday, March 11—President Trump announced a 30-day restriction on travel from most of Europe.
Friday, March 13—President Trump declared a National Emergency. This declaration frees up additional resources and allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to tap into billions of dollars and mobilize personnel more quickly to help state and local agencies and leaders respond.
Saturday, March 14—The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) on March 14, 2020. HR 6201 now moves to the Senate and has the support of President Trump. A summary and the text of this bill can be found at HR 6201. This bill responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. The bill is expected to be considered in the U.S. Senate within the next week.
Minnesota Spread Timeline
Friday, March 6—the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in Ramsey County in an older adult who had recently returned from a cruise.
Thursday, March 12—MDH reported four new cases in Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota and Stearns counties. Each case was related to travel in some way.
Friday, March 13—MDH reported 12 new cases.
Sunday, March 15—MDH reported 14 new cases – for a current total of 35.
Tuesday, March 17—As of the time of this writing, MDH has confirmed 60 positive cases, with total of 2,336 people having been tested.
This MDH document reports the numbers of people that have been tested and the number of people that have tested positive.