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Newly elected lawmaker vows to flout Minnesota COVID-19 rules

He wrote to Gov. Tim Walz, inviting him to a backyard gathering ahead of Thanksgiving.
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The new representative-elect for Shakopee has vowed to flout the new COVID-19 rules introduced by Gov. Tim Walz last week by holding a gathering at his home ahead of Thanksgiving.

Representative-elect Erik Mortenson, the GOPer who narrowly beat DFL-incumbent Brad Tabke in House District 55A, has posted several times about the new restrictions imposed by Gov. Walz last week, which includes a four-week ban on socializing with anybody outside of your own household, whether indoors or outdoors.

On Thursday, he wrote a letter to the governor and Attorney General Keith Ellison, inviting them to a "gathering at my home" on Wednesday, Nov. 25, saying it will be a "responsible and peaceful assembly in my backyard with a handful of constituents that live outside of my residence," and will involve lawn games.

He argues that the Constitution "supersedes" the governor's executive order, and adds: "Our rights originate from God and are guaranteed to us upon birth," and claims Walz's shutdown orders – which are aimed at limiting the spread of the virus and keeping hospitals operational – have "decimated the lives of so many Minnesotans."

In a Facebook video, Mortensen has said attendees have been given instructions such as "be safe," stay away if they're feeling unwell, wear a mask "if they'd like," and "they can social distance." 

"Essentially I've told them, go ahead and be grown ups, just like I wish our governor was doing," he said.

Walz has said that the ban on social gatherings are largely unenforceable, even though the order does carry a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail for those who "willfully violate" it.

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But he hopes that more people will stick to the order at a time when Minnesota's COVID-19 death toll climbed to 3,241 on Sunday, with the state's hospital's system currently at breaking point. The Star Tribune noted Monday that available ICU beds were down to the single digits in parts of Minnesota last week.

Deaths are expected to rise in the coming weeks due to the escalating case and hospitalization numbers, and many of those who survive trips to the hospital – and some of those who even don't need hospital stays – could experience health problems for months after they no longer require isolation.

While it's become increasingly difficult to identify the original source of an increasing number of Minnesotans infections with COVID-19 due to widespread community transmission, health experts believe social gatherings are a significant driver.

Both the Minnesota Department of Health and the federal CDC have advised people to avoid celebrating Thanksgiving with people outside their own household this year, such is the severity of the virus' spread in the U.S.

Mortsensen, meanwhile, tweeted this on Thursday.

District 55A is one of the seats picked up by the GOP on Nov. 3 that the DFL thinks was in no small part due to the involvement of Legal Marijuana Now candidates. 

LMN and the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party attained major party status in 2018, and in this month's elections pro-legalization candidates ran in numerous swing districts, some with the encouragement of the GOP.

In 2018, Tabke beat Mortensen in 55A by 604 votes in a two candidate race. This time, Legal Marijuana Now candidate Ryan Martin got 1,706 votes – 7.4% of the total votes – and Mortensen beat Tabke by 560 votes.

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