Walz Says Next Step Will Be Easing Restrictions On Elective Surgeries

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday afternoon that he’ll be extending the state’s stay-at-home order by two weeks — and will allow curbside pickup for retail stores.

The governor’s stay-at-home order was due to expire Monday, May 4. Thursday’s announcement means the order will continue to at least May 18.

Walz announced the update at a 2 p.m. briefing, saying that Minnesotans have saved lives and brought critical time to the health care system by staying home.

READ: Governor’s Executive Order Extending Stay-At-Home Order (.PDF)

“From building out critical hospital capacity to launching a landmark testing strategy, Minnesota has made meaningful progress in preparing for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walz said. “Minnesotans have made this possible by staying home and holding down the rate of infection. But now is not the time for sudden movements. There’s more work to be done, and we need to keep this virus at a simmer, not a boil. Our action today prioritizes the safety of Minnesotans while taking cautious, strategic steps toward getting people safely back to work.”

In another big update, the governor announced that retail businesses and other non-critical businesses can resume operations with curbside pick-up on Monday, May 4.

“This will put up to 30,000 Minnesotans back to work in a safe, coordinated way,” the governor’s office said.

In order to open for curbside pickup, businesses must do the following:

– Develop and publicly post a plan for how to open safely.
– Use online payment whenever possible.
– Employees and customers should wear masks and protective equipment.
– In curbside pick-up scenarios, social distancing guidelines apply. If possible, customers should not leave their vehicle.
– In delivery scenarios, items should be deposited outside a customer’s residence.

“Listening to Minnesota business and labor leaders on how to ensure the safety of workers and customers is at the core of our decision-making process,” Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. “Today’s announcement is the right next step to help more Minnesotans safely return to work and to reopen more businesses to get our economy ramping up again.”

MORE: Follow all the governor’s briefing updates on Pat Kessler’s Twitter page.

As part of his executive order Thursday, Walz strongly encouraged all Minnesotans to wear a “manufactured or homemade mask at all times” when leaving homes for any place where social distancing is difficult. Walz also encouraged those who can telework to continue to do so.

As for next steps, Walz says state officials are working hard to ease restrictions on elective surgeries, and an announcement is expected in a “couple of days.” Due to state slowing down virus spread, more hospital beds are available, according to Walz.

Minnesota Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has been a vocal critic of Walz’s stay-at-home order extensions. He released a statement shortly after Thursday’s extension announcement.

“The Governor is asking the right questions and looking at the right data, but I’m disappointed he’s not turning the dial further today. I think he should move further, and faster, opening businesses up again in Minnesota,” Gazelka said.

Walz indicated at a news conference in Worthington Wednesday that his plan is to dial back the restrictions slowly in the state instead of risking a huge surge in COVID-19 cases.

“I know one of the worst parts of this entire thing is the uncertainty in everything,” Walz acknowledged.

Worthington is home to the JBS plant, where at least 239 workers have tested positive for the virus. Nobles County has the state’s second-highest amount of COVID-19 cases due to the outbreak.

The governor said the intent of his stay-at-home order was to delay the peak of the pandemic to buy time to build up hospital, testing and tracing capacity; promote social distancing; and build up supplies of personal protective equipment.

Last week, Walz relaxed the rules slightly, allowing up to 20,000 companies employing 80,000 to 100,000 workers to begin resuming operations this week. But he left the closures of bars, restaurants, theaters and other businesses in place.

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