Legislative Update for the Week of April 20
Friday, April 24, 2020
Posted by: Admin
Quote of the Week: “This is a slippery slope, but it’s a slope we should be going down!” Senator Jeff Hayden during the floor debate on drug transparency.
Walz Walks Fine Line on COVID
Governor Tim Walz this week continued to walk the tight rope between opening up Minnesota too quickly and risking lives, versus going too slowly and destroying businesses. On Thursday, he announced that Minnesota’s schools would remain closed through the academic year, keeping nearly 900,000 students at home. But he also announced that about 20,000 businesses in the manufacturing and office sectors could reopen on Monday if they implement social distancing policies to protect employees and don’t have face-to-face interactions with customers. That move is expected to bring up to 100,000 Minnesotans back to work, about 20% of the roughly 500,000 that have filed for unemployment in the last month. Walz has faced increasing pressure from legislative Republicans to reopen businesses, but has taken a conservative approach to prevent further spread of the virus. That approach has earned him widespread support across the state. Walz entered the pandemic as the most popular first-term governor in the country and that support appears to have grown thanks to his handling of the pandemic.
Flanked by leaders from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, Governor Walz on Wednesday announced a $36 million plan to expand COVID testing to 20,000 Minnesotans a day. This rate quadruples the current 5,000 daily tests being performed. The shortage of testing capabilities has limited testing in Minnesota to health care staff, patients already in the hospital and nursing home residents. Walz said that by finding who is carrying the virus, the State can effectively quarantine individuals, limiting the spread of the disease and opening the way to relaxing the State’s current stay at home policy. As of Wednesday, only 49,344 COVID tests had been completed in Minnesota, of which 2,721 were positive for the virus. Funding for a new central lab, a virtual command center to monitor testing needs and coordinate state responses to the virus comes from the COVID funding bill passed by the Legislature several weeks ago.