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Stay-at-home order extension looks likely as state has yet to reach peak infections

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill Saturday allocating $330 million in COVID-19 aid passed by the state Legislature earlier in the week in St. Paul. Walz is under a 14-day quarantine and is working from the Governor's Residence. Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune, special to Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — It looks like Minnesotans will likely have to continue sheltering in place as they wait out the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a Tuesday, April 7 conference call, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he anticipates making adjustments to his stay-at-home executive order on Wednesday. Walz's order went into effect on Friday, March 27, and is currently slated to end on Friday, April 10.

But Walz said Tuesday it is "pretty clear" the order will stretch on longer than Friday. He said he also anticipates making more specific changes to the order, laying out what exactly Minnesotans can and cannot do during the order, but did not go into detail Tuesday about what those changes could look like.

As of Tuesday, 1,069 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. Thirty-four Minnesotans have died from the illness and 64 are hospitalized in intensive care units.

Along with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Walz warned Minnesotans not to get a "false sense of security" because the situation here isn't as dire as locations like New York City. He and Malcolm said data shows that Minnesotans' social distancing is working, and that residents need to stay the course in order to further prolong a potentially lethal peak of infections.


Meanwhile, Walz is facing pressure from legislative Republicans to let the order lapse come Friday so that businesses can get back to work and the state can see its slowing economy build back up. State budget officials on Monday said a projected $1.5 billion surplus lawmakers expected weeks ago was likely gone and the state was projected to face a deficit.

"I hope that he lifts that order," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said. "I think that Minnesotans get that we have to have social distancing. I think that that is the biggest thing that is in place now that never was before, that's going to slow down COVID-19."

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats also said they have concerns about the pandemic's and executive orders' impacts on the economy, but that not taking the actions could lead to significant loss of life in the state.

"As a policymaker for the state of Minnesota, I am of course greatly concerned about the economic impact and I do think that we do, all of us, need a light at the end of the tunnel to have some idea in our mind how many weeks are we going to be in this state of suspended animation," House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, said the state needs to help build the economy back up, but that should come after the danger of the pandemic subsides.

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Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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