Responding to the impact of the coronavirus strain COVID-19 this past week became more urgent at both the state level and at the Minnesota Legislature. Governor Walz has made several moves to promote social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the infection rate for the virus, including mandating that restaurants move to takeout- and delivery-only methods and bars be closed for the next two weeks.
Other social gathering spaces such as theaters, bowling alleys, and museums have also been closed. These decisions come as an effort to slow the spread of the infection, so the state’s health care infrastructure isn’t overwhelmed with too many cases at once. DFL legislators and Governor Walz remain committed to aiding those affected negatively by these closures and have helped pass economic support for workers tirelessly fighting this pandemic, as well as those experiencing economic hardships because of it.
The Legislature passed a bill this week to provide an additional $200 million for health care infrastructure and procedures during the response to COVID-19. The legislation was passed unanimously, showing our commitment to bipartisanship during this trying time for Minnesota.
Governor Walz has also signed executive orders in recent days, which will:
- Protect residents and staff in Veterans Homes by restricting all visitors and non-essential personnel except for end of life care.
- Exempt emergency relief efforts from certain regulations that restrict their ability to provide assistance, including limits on weight and hours of service. The Order allows for the efficient movement of essential supplies, including food, medical supplies, and household items.
- Provide paid leave for all state employees who are unable to work because of COVID-19.
Things will also be looking different in how business is done at the Legislature for the next several weeks. Despite the changes, Senate DFLers are still working for Minnesotans to ensure they have the help they need during this crisis. The Legislature is following the guidelines of the Minnesota Department of Health surrounding social distancing: six feet of distance is maintained between people, in-person meetings are being extremely limited, staff are encouraged to telecommute whenever possible, and senators are in recess, only returning to pass emergency COVID response legislation or legislation agreed upon by all legislative caucuses before heading to the floor.
We remain committed to being available to our constituents through these trying times and new guidelines. Minnesotans are encouraged to continue contacting their senators with any questions or concerns they may have via phone or email. Meetings can still be set up, but for the safety of staff, members, and constituents alike, meetings must occur via phone or over email to maintain distance and curtail the spread of COVID-19. Constituents should also continue to follow MDH guidelines on how best to avoid the virus and remain healthy during this time.
Staying informed is essential, and if we continue to follow these guidelines, we can flatten the curve and ensure Minnesota continues to operate in response to this pandemic effectively and efficiently. The most up-to-date information on COVID-19 from the MDH can be found here: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html
The MN Department of Health has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.
A MN Department of Public Safety hotline taking questions regarding community mitigation problems, including school and business impacts, can be found here open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
Constituents should not hesitate to reach out to their senators for any reason, COVID-19 related or not. We are here to serve our community and make sure we all get through this together as One Minnesota.