Douglas County legislators speak out against Walz's COVID plan

District 12B Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said Walz's plan falls short of helping businesses and his idea of allowing outdoor dining is "insulting" to restaurants that are struggling to survive.

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The Minnesota Capitol building with statue of Sen. Knute Nelson.

Two state legislators who represent parts of Douglas County blasted Gov. Tim Walz's decision on Wednesday, Dec. 16 to extend shutdowns and restrictions of some Minnesota businesses, including bars and restaurants, into the new year.

District 12B Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said Walz's plan falls short of helping businesses and his idea of allowing outdoor dining is "insulting" to restaurants that are struggling to survive.

“This simply is not enough for our businesses that have been beaten and battered by the governor’s restrictions,” Anderson said. “Presenting outdoor dining in Minnesota during the winter as some sort of advancement is the ultimate insult to the bars and restaurants his shutdowns already have impacted so deeply. The governor's own data shows that less than 1 percent of covid-19 cases are linked to those entities. We all know that COVID-19 is serious, but the governor is still picking winners and losers and doesn't seem to be following the data.”

District 8B Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said the restrictions, such as those involving gyms and fitness centers, aren't in line with the numbers that the Legislature has seen so far.

"Prior to this latest shutdown, gyms and fitness centers were not a significant contributor to the state’s COVID cases, and pools have not contributed a single documented case," Franson said. "Less than 1% of cases came from restaurants, yet the governor is forcing their business outside in the frigid temperatures if they want to seat customers."


Franson added that local businesses are the backbone of the economy, and they have shown the ability to operate safely.

"It is heartbreaking that we will lose even more of them than we already have because of these closures that aren't based in data," Franson said.

The governor's Executive Order 20-103 is an extension of the four-week pause on certain activities to slow the spread of COVID-19. While some businesses can continue to offer goods and services in a safe manner, many others will again have to weather the challenge of adjusting their operations to “to-go” or virtual means.

Starting Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m. to Jan. 10 at 11:59 p.m.:

  • Outdoor dining may resume at 50% capacity, 100 people max. No indoor dining and bar service. Delivery, window, walk-up, or drive-up service is open and encouraged.
  • Gyms, fitness and yoga studios, martial arts, and dance studios may open at 25% capacity, 100 people max. Masks are required at all times. 12 feet of distance must be maintained between patrons and between machines.
  • Outdoor events and entertainment may open at 25% capacity, 100 people max, with 6 feet of distance between households.
  • Organized sports for youth and adults are not allowed. Practices can resume January 4, 2021.
  • Public pools and rec centers will be closed.
  • Indoor entertainment venues will be closed.
  • Receptions, celebrations, and private parties must be canceled or postponed. Weddings, funerals, and other similar planned ceremonies can be held with the current rules in place, but all receptions and gatherings connected to these ceremonies must be canceled or postponed.

For social gatherings:

  • Two households may gather indoors, 10 people max.
  • Three households may gather outdoors, 15 people max.
  • Masks are strongly encouraged and social distancing must be maintained.

Based on Minnesota’s evolving knowledge and understanding of the virus, the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year has been updated so that starting on Jan. 18, every elementary school in Minnesota may choose to operate in person with additional safety measures, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The health department says the changes will help reduce the number of infections while safely supporting schools, hospitals, and the economy. For more information and guidance, visit Minnesota's Stay Safe Plan: Adjusting the Dials or Stay Safe MN .

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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