Coronavirus Daily Briefing: Gov. Walz addresses 4 new executive orders, COVID-19 impact on congregate living settings

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Gov. Tim Walz on Friday addressed four new executive orders he signed and state leaders addressing a concern involving congregate living settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walz signed four executive orders that will provide support and greater flexibility for health care providers, commercial drivers, local governments and constitutional officers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Walz signs 4 executive orders addressing support, flexibility for multiple industries

Executive Order 20-21 allows coverage for employees for constitutional officers, Executive Order 20-22 suspends state auditors reporting requirements, Executive Order 20-23 modifies requirements for health-related licensing boards, and Executive Order 20-24 will help food carriers bring products to market. Walz noted that the third executive order mentioned will not jeopardize care.

The governor noted that it has been two weeks since the peacetime emergency has been put in place in Minnesota.

"The Department of Public Safety said traffic crashes are down at about 49%," said Walz during the phone conference. He went on to note how he is "grateful for the One Minnesota approach."

As for the National Guard, 109 troops have been mobilized to deal with COVID-19 needs. Guard members will also be aiding in any spring flooding relief efforts. Over 650 state employees have been reassigned to areas where they are needed. Metro Mobility is now delivering meals to the vulnerable population.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there are now four confirmed deaths in the state. She said all four who died were in their 80s, which has been considered part of the highly vulnerable population. Earlier Friday, along with two additional deaths, 52 positive cases of COVID-19 were announced, putting the state’s total at 398. The MDH Public Health Lab has processed 6,929 tests, and private labs have completed 7,074 tests — private lab test totals had not been reported prior to Wednesday. Thirty-four more patients have been hospitalized on Friday, bringing that total in the state to 51.

Minnesota sees 2 additional COVID-19 deaths, total cases reach 398

As of Friday, the United States surpassed China (81,340) and Italy (86,498) in total confirmed cases, with 100,392. Over 1,500 deaths have been reported, and 2,465 patients have recovered.

"We know there are more cases in Minnesota and the virus is circulating in our communities," said Malcolm.

Three of the four deaths in the state have happened in congregate living settings, such as apartments and group homes. Kris Ehresmann, MDH’s Infectious Disease Director, added they are starting to see more cases pop up in those communities. She said weekly calls with congregate living communities started at the beginning of the month, providing updated guidance.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove offered some insight about businesses wondering if they are essential or not ahead of the stay at home executive order going into effect Friday night.

"Businesses who are unsure if they are critical are asked to go to the state’s website," Grove said.

Businesses who are wondering where they stand on the executive order can click here to find out more information.

He added that it is fine for business owners to go into their business if they need to pick up supplies or reboot a server, anything along those lines. The bottom line of the stay at home order is for non-critical workers to stay at home.

"Just use common sense," he said.

Since March 16, about 204,000 unemployment insurance applications have been submitted to the state. Grove said that number is expected to surpass 220,000 applications on Friday, which would eclipse all of 2019’s total in a matter of 11 days.

"That is an unprecedented volume," Grove said about the applications.

Walz noted that construction sites have not been shut down and added that workers are expected to follow protocols.