MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) —Minnesota lawmakers passed emergency legislation Tuesday that would provide $200 million for investment in the health care system as the state mounts a defense against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The bill allocates $150 million for a new health care response fund. The Minnesota Department of Health will use it to make grants to providers to help them respond to the outbreak. The money can be used for temporary sites to provide testing services, treatment beds and isolate affected patients, among other things.
The bill also provides $50 million for an existing public heath response contingency account that can be tapped more quickly to help providers, ambulance services, clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The House passed the bill shortly after 3 a.m., about an hour after the Senate approved it 55-0. It now goes to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.
“The money that lawmakers appropriated today will help our state’s healthcare system respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), the bill’s author, in a statement. “There are many unknowns ahead, so we are helping to ensure that our health care institutions and the dedicated health care providers who work in them have the resources they need to confront the crisis.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R – Crown), says the bill ensures that Minnesota’s public and private health care infrastructure is prepared to respond to the pandemic.
“Legislators will continue to monitor the situation and Minnesotans can rest assured that state leaders will respond as we always do in emergency situations,” he said.
So far, 54 people in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19, and three of them have been hospitalized.
The Legislature is in recess because of the pandemic until April 14 unless leaders call lawmakers back for essential business.
The votes came the day after Walz ordered bars and restaurants across Minnesota to temporarily close by 5 p.m. Tuesday through March 27 to customers who dine in. Delivery and curbside takeout services may continue to operate. The order also applies to theaters, museums, fitness centers and community clubs. Supermarkets, pharmacies and other retailers are not affected.
For most who get COVID-19, symptoms are mild. However, the disease is threatening to the elderly and those with compromised respiratory systems.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, people do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they can manage their symptoms at home.
Health officials says those who are sick should follow a 7-3 rule. They’d like people to stay at home for a week and then complete three days fever-free before going about their business in the community.
Health officials say those with questions about COVID-19 can call the Minnesota Department of Health hotline at 651-201-3920.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)