Saving lives and keeping the economy from failing is the balancing act Gov. Tim Walz is trying to navigate as the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic threatens both in Minnesota.
After Walz issued a two-week "Stay at Home" order that will enhance movement restrictions on Minnesotans beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said he has "grave concerns" about the executive order.
“I share the Governor’s concerns about the safety and well-being of all Minnesotans. I also have grave concerns about the Governor’s statewide Stay-at-Home order, and the consequences for the families of Minnesota when their jobs and businesses that provide their livelihood are lost," Gazelka said in a statement.
According to Steve Grove, commissioner of the state's economic and employment department, 78 percent of Minnesotans will remain working during the two-week order.
The majority of those not working are the same people who have spent the past two weeks filing for unemployment after their jobs at restaurants, bars, hair salons, spas and other businesses of amusement were forced close under a separate executive order to keep Minnesotans from congregating in masses.
"I would say that I as governor have to make the best decisions I can in this environment. I certainly understand that not all will agree, but I think taking in the best data from our health-care professionals, both in state government and out of state government and the best data, this is what I could do," said Walz on Wednesday.
"In a democracy, there's always healthy debates but at this point I just need to stay focused on my lane."
Walz hopes that partisan politics don't get in the way of making the best decisions for Minnesotas, both from safety and economic viewpoints.
"The concern that people are showing about the economy, I hope they're feeling the sense that I have of that, too. I understand the impact that that has on people. I also understand that not taking these actions will result in the deaths of Minnesotans," he said.
"The idea that this is a false choice between the economy and protecting people, if there is a better way other than just send everybody back, because my data shows me – and it was my first scenario run by the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Health – shows what will happen if you just send them back."
What do the models show? The data projections from the U of M and Minnesota Department of Health show that stopping mitigation and going back to work and school would speed up the peak of the novel coronavirus epidemic to about 9 weeks from now, with the 235 available ICU beds in Minnesota being filled within 6 weeks.
By continuing mitigation efforts and enforcing a two-week stay-at-home order, the modeling allegedly shows that the peak epidemic is pushed out to about 14 weeks from now, also giving Minnesota an extra five weeks before every ICU bed in the state is filled with patients.
If the models are accurate, delaying the peak of the epidemic will give Minnesota a chance to add ICU beds, stockpile badly needed protective equipment and prepare stadiums and arenas in the event that hospitals begin to overflow with COVID-19 patients.
But it will continue to put a strain on businesses – particularly those in the food, drink, beauty, and entertainment industries – with the shutdown of these industries being extended to May 1.
As of Wednesday, more than 160,000 Minnesotans had applied for unemployment payments in the past week.