Ingebrigtsen: State faring better than others
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, from listening to their constituents Tuesday, March 31.
They held two town hall-style meetings via an online video-conferencing program, Zoom, on the virus and how the Legislature has been responding to it.
An afternoon Zoom session drew a couple dozen participants who talked about a wide range of coronavirus issues.
Impact of the virus
Ingebrigtsen noted that 10 people in Minnesota have died from the virus (another seven deaths have been reported since then) and the state has been roughly averaging between 50-70 new cases a day. But overall, he added, Minnesota is looking better than many other states.
Joel Beiswenger, CEO of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena, urged people to keep following health precautions such as social distancing, and not get complacent. He said that a big concern among health care professionals is not being able to offer care for all those who need it.
How they are handling it
When Ingebrigtsen and Franson were asked how they were personally handling the coronavirus threat, they said they were abiding by the stay-at-home order and taking precautions.
“I’m no different than anyone else,” Ingebrigtsen said. “I make trips into town or to St. Paul when I have to and I’m practicing the six-foot social distancing thing.”
Franson added that legislators aren’t living their lives in fear. She added she prays with her children every day and they’re doing an excellent job with distance learning.
An attendee wondered if the state planned to do anything to prevent people from going to their summer cabins. Franson said that there is nothing in the governor’s orders that prohibits such travel.
A person said there’s conflicting information about wearing masks and whether the general public should wear them.
Franson said that legislators aren’t allowed to give medical advice. A doctor from Alomere Health who was at the meeting said that you should only wear a mask if you are actively sick to protect others. The doctor added that masks should be conserved so there are enough for health care workers. Alomere Health, he said, has a place for people to donate masks.
Another attendee asked what was the best place to get accurate information about the coronavirus.
Ingebrigtsen said the Minnesota Department of Health has a good website ( health.state.mn.us ) with updated information, and added that local media is also providing good information.
Affect on bonding bill
Another person asked if COVID-19 will affect the bonding bill. Franson said that the Legislature is under a quarantine break until at least April 14 but still expects to approve a bonding bill.
She added that the parties have different views on the issue. Democrats are pushing for a bonding bill of about $3 billion, while Republicans are proposing between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.
Help for landlords?
Holly Witt, executive director of the Alexandria Area Community Foundation, said grants are in place to help those impacted by the coronavirus through the Alexandria Response Fund.
On another topic, Witt talked about the freeze the state has put on most rental evictions until April 30 and asked how landlords are going to be paid.
Ingebrigtsen said all the details weren’t worked out when Gov. Tim Walz signed the order and the governor will need to come up with something.
Another topic that popped up was the pandemic’s economic impact on businesses and family budgets. Franson noted that a woman from her district told her that her husband lost his job as a contractor when his company made $400 million in cuts.
Franson said job losses need to be addressed, along with helping people handle the stress and anxiety that comes with it.
(This story has been corrected to say that Franson, not at attendee at the meeting, shared the information from a constituent about the lost job).