Coronavirus Daily Briefing: Walz calls current events ‘an unprecedented time,’ 28% of Minnesotans to be temporarily unemployed

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called on Minnesotans to remain at home for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

An executive order was signed by the governor Wednesday, prompting the two-week period that will begin Friday night (March 27) at 11:59 p.m. through Friday, April 10. The order also includes more limited social distancing plans to follow with a focus on people at greatest risk of COVID-19 complications — mainly people who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.

VIDEO: Gov. Walz issues stay-home order for 2 weeks to curb spread of COVID-19

Violating the order in Minnesota comes with the penalties of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. But Walz said law enforcement will be more focused on educating the public than writing tickets.

"We don’t want them to be arrested, first and foremost, we want to educate people," he said. "This requires voluntary social compliance for a large part."

During those two weeks, Minnesotans are able to leave their homes for health and safety activities, outdoor activities, gathering necessary supplies, essential travel, the care of others and relocation purposes.

"This is an unprecedented time," Walz said in a conference call with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on Wednesday.

Globally, over 438,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday. Among them, 21,152 people have died from the virus, according to MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

In Minnesota, 287 positive cases have been reported. Malcolm added 35 of those patients have been hospitalized, while 26 are still hospitalized. Twelve of those patients are in intensive care. MDH did not report specific information relating to the demographics of those who have tested positive or are being hospitalized but said the ages have ranged from 6 months old to 94 years old.

According to MDH, the 6-month-old with a confirmed case is in Dodge County and isn’t hospitalized.

MDH advised that hospitalized numbers only account for people with confirmed COVID-19 cases, but all hospitalized people with suspicious cases are being tested for the virus.

Malcolm also said getting samples for testing is now becoming a bigger issue in the state, as there is a shortage of swabs, which are used to conduct the test.

Over 6,300 samples have been tested by MDH labs, while over 5,000 have been tested by alternative labs.

"Every state agency has been working hard, doing the best we can to avoid being overwhelmed," Walz said during the call.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is continuing to be an issue for health care workers and EMS staff, according to Joe Kelly, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the state of Minnesota.

Full KSTP coverage of COVID-19 pandemic

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said throughout the state of Minnesota, 78% of jobs in the state are in "critical industries." However, about 28% of Minnesotans are expected to be jobless due to Walz’s orders. As of Wednesday, 164,786 applications have been filed for unemployment insurance.

"I understand the impact [the order] has on people," said Walz. "I also understand that not taking these actions will result in deaths of Minnesotans."

The governor also said the data has shown Minnesota will reach "its peak" at Day 150. When asked what day the state currently stands on that spectrum, Walz said Wednesday is considered Day 4.

Walz also addressed his personal situation during the phone conference, stating if he became sick enough that the governor’s authority would transfer to Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, whom he said is in all of the briefings he is and is fully up to speed.