MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republicans kept up the pressure Monday on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to move faster toward allowing more businesses to reopen, saying many of them already have detailed plans for operating safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said at a Capitol news conference that Republicans want to keep working with the governor, but encouraged him to lay out a clearer long-range plan so that businesses can know what to expect and plan for when they can reopen.
“We want to make sure people are safe,” the East Gull Lake Republican said. “We know that is absolutely critical, that Minnesotans feel safe as we move forward. But the fact is that we have to figure out how to move forward.”
Senate Republicans made the call on a day when officials said the number of Minnesotans hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19 has jumped for three straight days to the highest levels yet. The Minnesota Department of Health reported 166 patients in intensive care units as of Monday, up 11 from a one-day high of 155 set Sunday and a high of 135 set Saturday. A total of 396 patients were hospitalized, up 23 from Sunday.
Minnesota’s confirmed cases rose by 571 to 7,234, but officials say those numbers are way lower than the actual number of coronavirus infections because many patients don’t get tested and many don’t show symptoms. Minnesota’s death toll rose by nine to 428. Out of that total, 345 deaths have been in residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Walz ordered bars and restaurants closed in March and followed that with a broader stay-at-home order, which later relaxed to a limited extent for businesses that don’t face the public and to allow retailers to conduct more “curbside commerce.” His latest order runs through May 18. While he made clear last week that many restrictions will remain in place longer than mid-May, he plans to ease the state’s ban on elective surgeries on Tuesday.
Gazelka said many of the benchmarks Walz originally set for reopening the economy have been met now, including securing more personal protective equipment for front-line workers, setting up enough intensive care unit beds to handle the coming surge in cases, and building up the state’s testing capacity.
Appearing with Gazelka were business owners and a pastor who said they’ve developed detailed plans for operating safely with proper social distancing, sanitation and other safeguards, but don’t known when they might get the chance.
Ray Herrington, owner of several bars and restaurants in St. Cloud, said they’re already practicing good sanitation as they offer food to go. Andrew Hulse, who owns men’s salons in Maple Grove and Wayzata, said barbers and stylists already are trained and licensed in infection control procedures. And Rory Martin, pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Eden Prairie, called on Walz to provide clear ways for congregations to get cleared to resume meeting, at least on a smaller scale.
“Our communities need this hope, and the encouragement that it brings, more than ever,” he said.
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