MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has issued an executive order directing Minnesotans to stay at home for two weeks in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Wednesday afternoon.

In a 2 p.m. address from his residence, Walz said the stay-at-home order goes into effect Friday night at 11:59 p.m. People are being asked to limit movement outside to essential services.

By staying at home, we will limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities while we build out the capacity of our health care systems.

Anyone found to violate this order could get a misdemeanor citation, a $1,000 fine or up to 90 days in jail.

“We are asking for two weeks. We are asking for your patience and your understanding … I am asking for your sacrifice, I am asking businesses to sacrifice. We are doing everything we can to provide a safety net,” Walz said. “I know how painful this is.”

Walz said that if the state did nothing to slow the spread of COVID-19, projections show that upwards of 74,000 people in this state could potentially be killed by the virus.

Despite these drastic steps Walz says 2 million of Minnesota’s 5.6 million residents could still get sick. But when they do, because of these measures they will be have the critical medical facilities and personnel they need available to them.

Walz also announced that the closure of bars, restaurants and other public accommodations will be extended to May 1, 2020 at 5 p.m. Also, a distance learning period will begin on March 30 until May 4.

(Credit: Gov. Tim Walz)

“So the attempt here is to strike a proper balance of making sure our economy can function, we protect the most vulnerable, we slow the rate to buy us time and build out our capacity to deal with this,” Gov. Walz said. “So significant mitigation that we are going to do for 2 weeks, will move us up from 50 percent stopping social interactions to 80 percent stopping of that.”

Workers who provide critical services to the people of Minnesota are exempt at this time. The exemptions are based on federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with some Minnesota-specific additions. This includes, but is not limited to jobs in:

  • Health care and public health
  • Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
  • Homeless shelters
  • Child care
  • Food and agriculture
  • News media
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Critical manufacturing

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he has “grave concerns” about the stay at home order and its consequences for families and businesses.

The Democratic governor also warned that the fight would extend “well beyond Easter.”

The state’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 287 on Wednesday, up 25 from a day earlier, with 26 hospitalized cases, up 11 from Tuesday. Officials have stressed that the real total of Minnesota residents with the disease is much higher because many people don’t qualify for testing. But more than 11,000 people have now been tested in Minnesota, the Health Department said.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In other developments, Minnesota lawmakers were preparing to return to the Capitol on Thursday to beef up the state’s fight against COVID-19 and help residents cope with the economic hardships. Details of the relief package have not been announced.

Also, Minneapolis-based Target announced new measures Wednesday to protect shoppers and store employees. Checkout lanes will be cleaned after each sale. New signs and floor decals will encourage shoppers to keep their distance from each other. Target will suspend sales of reusable bags and ask guests who bring their own bags to pack their own items at checkout. Also, Target will stop accepting in-store merchandise returns and exchanges for three weeks, though it will honor returns that expire during that period.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Esme Murphy

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