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Ahead of visits from Trump and Biden, Gov. Walz urges them to comply with COVID-19 guidelines

The presidential candidates will visit Minnesota on Friday.

Gov. Tim Walz is urging President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden's campaigns to comply with Minnesota's COVID-19 safety guidelines ahead of their visits to the state later this week.

Walz wrote a letter to the campaigns asking them to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Minnesota by respecting the state's rules about masks, crowd size and social distancing. 

“As the election nears, Minnesotans look forward to hearing from political candidates about their vision for our state and country,” Walz wrote. “While we welcome the opportunity for Minnesotans to participate in democracy, we ask that your events comply with our state’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. Partner with us in the fight against COVID-19.”

Walz wrote in the letter that more than 1,900 Minnesotans have died from the virus, including more than 200 in the past month. 

Biden last week said he'd visit Minnesota on Friday, but hasn't shared where he'll be. Soon after Biden's announcement, Trump said he'd be stopping in Bemidji the same day. 

"Please demonstrate that you value Minnesota by protecting the health of our communities. Join us in our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep our businesses open, and get back to the activities we love," Walz wrote.

To comply with the relevant safety guidelines in Minnesota, people attending an event must maintain at least six feet apart at all times, including when entering and exiting an event, and face coverings must be worn indoors and are strongly encouraged outside, the letter states. 

Meanwhile, Walz says events generally must not exceed 25% capacity or more than 250 people, but noted that campaign organizers may be able to increase attendance at events if they choose a venue with multiple event spaces. 

The Trump campaign is again hosting large rallies, ignoring COVID-19 safety guidelines that have been encouraged by the White House. Images from recent campaign stops, including one in Nevada in which the governor there slammed Trump for holding a packed indoor rally, show hundreds of people closer than six feet apart and many without masks.

Locally, the Minnesota DFL has attacked local Republican campaigns for not wearing masks, holding events indoors and not maintaining proper social distancing at events. 

Meanwhile, Biden and local DFL campaigns are mostly sticking to virtual events and fundraising or holding events outdoors. 

Walz wrote in the letter that the White House for the past few weeks has "encouraged us to 'ensure compliance with current MN StaySafe Plan occupancy restrictions.'" Walz says these restrictions are consistent with recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx, who on a recent visit to the state stressed following safety guidelines to keep Minnesota's growing coronavirus numbers down.

She noted that people in rural areas of Minnesota are not following COVID-19 safety guidelines including social distancing as well as those in cities.

The visits

After losing it by just 1.5% to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump sees Minnesota as one of his best chances to flip a state, having seen his support grow particularly in rural areas and the Iron Range.

Trump was last in Minnesota in August, when he gave speeches at MSP Airport and in Mankato.

He is hoping the support in greater Minnesota will be enough to overcome the deficit he faces in the Twin Cities metro area.

The latest poll from KSTP/SurveyUSA showed Trump trailing Biden by 9% in Minnesota. However, the poll has a 5.2% margin of error and the same companies polled the race in 2016 and found Clinton to have a 10% lead just before the election.

The location of Biden's visit next week has not been revealed, but in coming to Minnesota, the Democratic nominee will do what Clinton failed to do in 2016.

It's the latest in a series of visits to Minnesota, with Trump family members including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Lara Trump coming to the state, along with VP Mike Pence. Meanwhile, Biden's wife Dr. Jill Biden visited a Minnesota school last week and Biden's running mate Kamala Harris recently held a virtual meeting with Minnesota DFL leaders.

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