Governor Walz announced a Stay-at-Home Executive Order this week directing Minnesotans to limit activity outside of their homes to essential needs, extending from Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. to Friday, April 10 at 5:00 p.m.
Modeling by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota predicts that more than 70,000 Minnesotans could die from COVID-19 if no action is taken. Further limiting of social interactions in the next two weeks will slow the spread of COVID-19, buying more time to prepare for anticipated heavy demands on the health care sector as the virus sweeps through the state in the coming weeks and months. This will help prevent Minnesota’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed, and by doing so, save lives. Key preparations include building hospital capacity, increasing access to ventilators, more testing, planning for the care of vulnerable populations, and assessing public health data to plan for smart mitigation strategies.
What does this mean for Minnesotans?
Minnesotans may leave their homes for any of the following activities, provided they practice appropriate social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people who don’t live them).
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
- Outdoor activities, such as walking pets, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
- Getting necessary supplies and services, such as groceries, gas, or carry-out food
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside of Minnesota
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency or homeless shelters for those without a home
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as moving to a different location if a home is unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
- Tribal activities, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation
What is an essential business?
While jobs are shut down for a large segment of Minnesota’s workers, those employed in critical sectors are exempt from the stay-at-home order. These include essential workers in health care, law enforcement and first responders, childcare facilities, grocery stores, take-out restaurant service, farmers and other agricultural workers, news organizations, power, gas and water service, wastewater treatment and other sanitation or public works, critical manufacturing, transportation and logistics, construction and trades, financial services, and others.
The exemptions for essential workers are based on federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security, with some Minnesota-specific additions. The Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates that 78% of the jobs in Minnesota are in critical industries as defined by the executive order, 28% of people in Minnesota will be “temporarily jobless” during the two-week leave, and 59% of people not working will have access to some form of paid leave.
The most effective resource for employers or employees trying to determine how they are impacted by Executive Order 20-20 is through Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development: https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/business-exemptions/. On this website, businesses may search their industry in various forms to determine whether they are essential, including:
- Searching the list of critical businesses
- Reviewing the executive order 20-20
- Submitting a form for specific overview by a DEED employee
- If a question is not answered via these sources, questions on what qualifies as a critical business also may be emailed to: CriticalSectors@state.mn.us
What stays open?
The executive order allows many businesses to remain open, including grocery stores, gas stations, emergency medical services, pharmacies, hardware stores, banks, food shelves, convenience stores, liquor stores, restaurants providing take-out, and funeral homes.
Schools, Restaurants and Bars
Governor Walz’ order to close K-12 schools is extended to May 4, and the commissioner of education is authorized to implement a Distance Learning Period for Minnesota’s students from March 30 through May 4, 2020. The Governor’s order to close bars, restaurants and other public gathering places is extended to May 1, 2020.
What about enforcement?
Under the executive order, individuals who willfully violate the rules may be guilty of a misdemeanor, with a maximum fine of $1,000 or up to 90 days in prison. Nevertheless, Governor Walz says the order requires voluntary social compliance, to a large part, and he is more focused on educating people to stay at home rather than using law enforcement to keep Minnesotans from gathering.