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Southern Minnesota city says it won't prevent businesses from opening, opposes stay-at-home order

The city passed a resolution declaring it a "constitutional and business-friendly community."

A southern Minnesota city has passed a resolution declaring it a "constitutional and business-friendly community" and says it will not use any city resources to enforce Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders.

The Lakefield City Council passed the resolution on a 3-2 vote on Monday, May 4, according to KKOJ

"Businesses could still be found in violation of the governor's order, but the Council voted to not stand in the way if they choose to open," Mayor Brian Rossow said in a post on Facebook after the resolution passed.

According to Rossow's Facebook page, he proposed the resolution at the April 20 City Council meeting, but the council voted to reconsider it at the May 4 meeting, when it passed with a 3-2 vote. KKOJ reports Rossow, as well as City Council members Bruce Bakalyar and Brent Pavelko, voted in favor of the resolution, while Andrea Monson and Nathan Hall against it.

The resolution

The resolution states the Lakefield City Council is opposed to any executive order that restricts the constitutional rights of its citizens, requesting relief from Walz's orders and demanding cities and local governments be given the sole power to issue and implement emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City Council will not direct any city resources to enforce the executive orders or other directives that may infringe on the rights to business owners to be open "per the Constitution" and it will use "any legal means" to protect citizens' Constitutional rights, the resolution states.

The city supports residents who choose to move around the city freely and support the local economy, as well as those who choose to stay home, the resolution says.

In addition to taking a stance against the governor's executive orders, the City Council's resolution encourages residents to follow Minnesota Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing and advises long-term care facilities to restrict visitors and monitor workers and residents for coronavirus symptoms. 

COVID-19 in southern Minnesota

Lakefield, which has a population of fewer than 2,000 people, is located in Jackson County. 

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, about 0.25% of Jackson County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. That puts the county at No. 7 on a list of Minnesota counties with the highest number of cases per capita. In nearby Nobles County, 4.91% of residents have tested positive for the virus – the highest per capita percentage in the state. 

In contrast, 0.22% of all residents in Hennepin County have tested positive for the virus, despite having more than one-third of all confirmed cases in the state. (Check out these interactive charts and graphs that show how the coronavirus is impacting Minnesota.) 

Pushing back against orders

Some Republican members of the Minnesota Legislature are asking Gov. Walz to stop using his emergency powers and instead work with the legislature on the state's decisions related to COVID-19 pandemic, threatening to hold back the bonding bill until this happens.

This comes as some people have protested the state's stay-at-home order and businesses have defied the governor's orders that limit what businesses can be open and how they can serve customers. One example is a barbershop in St. Paul that reopened despite being ordered closed. The owner calling it an "unjust law" that is putting his business on the brink of closing for good. It has been reported the shop has since been shut down by the state.

On Tuesday, Walz expressed empathy for frustrated business owners – many of whom are on the verge of closing for good – but said Minnesota's efforts to keep flattening the curve during the COVID-19 outbreak "is going to take social compliance."

"In every society, you've got to have an orderly way to do this," the governor said, adding that people who decide that "we're going to go and do whatever we want to do" puts Minnesota "at risk."

According to Executive Order 20-48, which extended the stay-at-home order to May 18, it's a misdemeanor for workers who willfully violate the order, which could result in a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail if they're convicted. The punishment is greater for business owners and managers who require or encourage a worker to violate the order. In that case, it's a gross misdemeanor that could result in a fine of up to $3,000 and/or a year in jail. Violators could also face civil penalties.

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