Stay at Home: Gov. Walz says businesses reopening against state orders 'puts Minnesota at risk'

A St. Paul barbershop was forced to close after attempting to reopen.
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A St. Paul barbershop that was forced to shut down served as an example for what can happen if other businesses try to reopen in the face of the state-mandated lockdown related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

King Milan's Barbershop reopened Monday and was quickly shuttered by authorities the next day. Barbers and hair salons are allowed to sell retail products, but they cannot cut or style hair until at least May 19, the day after Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order expires. 

Walz expressed empathy for frustrated business owners – many of whom are on the brink 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 Tuesday, adding that people who decide that "we're going to go and do whatever we want to do" puts Minnesota "at risk."

High-contact, customer-facing businesses like barbers, salons, restaurants and bars have been forced to close (outside of curbside pick-up and delivery) for going on nearly two months. Milan Dennie, the owner of King Milan's who told the Pioneer Press that the stay-at-home order is an "unjust law," implemented safety procedures that he felt would protect himself, other barbers and customers. 

  • All barbers wear a mask at all times.
  • Only 5 customers inside at once, all at least 6 feet apart.
  • Chairs spaced 6 feet apart outside when weather permits.
  • Customers take a number and follow a digital sign displayed on the storefront.
  • Disinfecting all equipment. 

But WCCO reported that police forced the shop to close at noon Tuesday. 

"The disregard for it, again, we're a united country. We have a federal system. If each community is going to determine on their own [rules], it makes it very difficult to have community health because if that community ends up spreading to others, it's a problem," said Walz, not speaking directly about King Milan's. 

Minnesotans' compliance with social distancing measures has helped slow the speed of the disease outbreak, and state leaders are now confident that the peak of the first wave of the pandemic – expected in late May or early June in Minnesota – will not overflow the state's ICU and ventilator capacity. 

"The ICU rate is quite a bit less steep than the non-ICU bed utilization, so we're still feeling really good about that," said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. 

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According to the COVID-19 Dashboard from the state health department, there are 1,610 available ICU beds and 2,338 available ventilators with another 888 on back order. There are currently 182 (as of Tuesday) COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

"This is one of those difficult things that if we do this right, it'll appear like we're wrong because we didn't overrun the healthcare system," said Walz. 

"It's a bit like someone who can't swim and you keep them out of the water. Whether you can claim you kept them from drowning or not might be a little bit debatable, but I'll guarantee you had they jumped in the deep end it would've been trouble." 

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