COVID-19 Daily Briefing: Extended ‘stay at home’ order aims to buy preparation time ahead of state’s peak

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday he is extending the ‘stay at home’ order until May 4.

Here’s what was discussed during a news conference with state leaders Wednesday:

How does the extended ‘stay at home’ order affect Minnesotans?

Walz said the newly-extended ‘stay at home’ order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and last through 11:59 p.m. on May 3. The original order was set to expire Friday.

The extension maintains the rules of the existing order. Through the order, Minnesotans are able to leave their homes for health and safety activities, outdoor activities, gathering necessary supplies, essential travel, care purposes and relocation purposes.

Essential workers are exempt from the ‘stay at home’ order.

What Minnesotans need to know about Gov. Walz’s ‘stay at home’ order

Walz said he is requesting plans from nonessential businesses to help in determining protocols for exemptions. Walz said, however, he will not sacrifice the health of Minnesotans to reopen businesses if it won’t work.

Why was the ‘stay at home’ order extended?

Walz referenced additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the benefits of social distancing and limited travel as well as epidemiological data from the Minnesota Department of Health as reasons for the decision to extend the order.

Walz said the decision to encourage Minnesotans to practice social distancing at the onset of the virus spread in Minnesota, as well as to implement a ‘stay at home order’ early on, has benefited the state.

"The move to go early has kept us relatively flat," Walz said, referencing the curve an increase in COVID-19 cases makes.

Wednesday, MDH reported a total of 1,154 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday. Thirty-nine total deaths have also been reported. Of the cases in Minnesota, 271 have needed hospitalization, and 135 of those patients are still in the hospital. According to MDH, 632 patients no longer need isolation.

"Staying at home has worked to slow the spread," Walz added, stating cases were doubling every two days and are now doubling roughly every eight days.

However, Walz said, with the data point that one person can infect four people, it’s important to remain diligent in prevention efforts.

"We cannot rest easy," Walz said. "This thing can explode overnight if you don’t take proper precautions."

Currently, state leaders say research indicates the peak of cases in Minnesota could be in July.

How is Minnesota preparing to address current and future cases?

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the peak of cases in Minnesota is yet to come, and the potential for the virus to infect more Minnesotans continues.

Currently, Walz said the state needs about 3,000 intensive care unit beds starting in mid-May through July. Meanwhile, much-needed ventilators for the state are on backorder.

However, Walz said extending the ‘stay at home’ order gives officials in various fields more time to get those ventilators, to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE), to get beds ready and to keep the state’s first responders safe.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said workers are finishing up planning on alternate care sites in the event hospitals overflow as well as setting up medical shelter options for the homeless and those who currently have the virus.

What about Minnesotans who need assistance during this time?

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said Wednesday that Minnesota has been one of the first states to begin processing $600 payments through the federal CARES Act and make them available to Minnesotans.

Minnesota starts issuing $600 payments to unemployed through CARES Act

Grove said roughly 200,000 applications for those payments have been processed since Tuesday night, totaling roughly $115 million.

He also said there have been a total of 367,194 unemployment insurance applications filed through DEED since March 16. There were 12,925 applications filed Tuesday, which is about 5,000 fewer applications compared to this time last week.

Grove also advised small business owners to utilize the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, stating quick loans are available.

What’s the outlook beyond the extended ‘stay at home’ order?

When asked whether Minnesotans should consider postponing summer plans, Malcolm said state leaders are hesitant to say "cancel summer," but that Minnesotans do need to be smart.

Walz added it might not be a typical Minnesota summer but he encouraged Minnesotans to get outside and stay healthy.

He asked Minnesotans to keep in mind the work they’ve done thus far to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Do not get complacent, do not give up all the longterm gains you’ve made," Walz said.