Minnesota Opinion: Has Walz done enough in COVID-19 response?
Summary: Continued extension of emergency powers should come with solutions for reducing the spread of the virus and ways to help Minnesotans to economic recovery. But we also have to obey the rules, wear our masks and maintain social distancing. The power is in our hands.
The numbers are headed the wrong way.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported more than 1,200 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. That means the state has averaged more than 1,000 cases a day for the past week.
On Monday, while asking the Legislature to extend his emergency powers, Gov. Tim Walz mentioned the spiking number of cases.
“My top priority remains the health and safety of Minnesotans,” Walz told a Forum News Service reporter. “We must double down in our efforts to protect Minnesota from the spread of COVID-19.”
Monday marked Walz's fifth appeal for emergency powers. While each has led to an extension, they haven't come without objections.
The Republican-led Senate voted 36-31 Monday to block the extension. The Democratic-controlled House didn't act on the measure. Both chambers would have had to approve the resolution in order to end the governor's emergency powers.
Walz has used this temporary authority for a number of actions, from freezing evictions to providing benefits to unemployed Minnesotans. But it was the governor's temporary closures of schools, businesses and houses of worship that rankled Republican lawmakers the most. Oh, yes, and the mask mandate.
While many schools and businesses have since reopened, they still face constraints meant to limit the spread of the virus. Republicans argue that Walz is re-opening the state too slowly, and that they should have a voice in the state's pandemic response.
"We're not even at the kiddie table as it relates to fixing this problem. We're in the garage with the Jell-O salad that your mom puts out there to keep cool," said Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia.
Walz said his emergency powers and the Executive Council can provide rapid response to emergency situations, but that the Legislature as a whole couldn't react fast enough.
With 29 newly reported deaths reported Wednesday, it may be time to react. The jump in Minnesota cases follows a similar spike in Wisconsin, which reported 34 deaths in its Tuesday report. North Dakota set a new record for daily deaths last week with 24.
“The biggest thing we can do to ensure our kids have an opportunity to be in school, that our businesses and restaurants remain open, is to simply follow the science around masking, around social distancing, getting tested,” Walz told reporters. “To not do these things will guarantee that others get it.”
Continued extension of emergency powers should come with solutions for reducing the spread of the virus and ways to help Minnesotans to economic recovery. But we also have to obey the rules, wear our masks and maintain social distancing. The power is in our hands.
This editorial is the opinion of the Rochester Post Bulletin Editorial Board.