On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz announced an official stay at home order for two weeks, starting at midnight tonight.
Unless we’ve got doctors to visit or groceries to buy, Minnesotans are supposed to hole up to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Violating the order could mean a misdemeanor offense, and a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
“Nonessential” jobs will have to go remote or, if that's not possible, shut down operations through April 10. Plenty of Minnesotans previously sidelined by orders to close bars and restaurants—now extended through May 1—were already out of work. State officials estimate some 28 percent of Minnesotans will be temporarily jobless for the next two weeks, and not all of them have access to some form of paid leave.
Walz said the point is to cut down typical person-to-person contact by 80 percent while the state prepares. Minnesota has seen only two deaths from coronavirus. According to models, Walz said doing nothing, letting people go on with life and work as normal, could see that number rise to 74,000.
Not everyone's so worried. A few Minnesota Republicans have been sounding off against the order, saying the cost will be too great. That includes former congressman and current U.S. Senate hopeful Jason Lewis, a man who once referred to the virus as a possible “big buying opportunity on Wall Street.”
On Wednesday, he tweeted that Walz’s order was the “wrong approach.”
A #ShelterInPlaceMN order is the wrong approach.— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) March 25, 2020
We need to be responsible, use best practices, and protect the vulnerable.
But we cannot destroy Minnesota & the country in the process. People need jobs to return to!
Simply put, the cure cannot be worse than the disease!” https://t.co/twcgLUQfc2
The phrase about the cure being “worse” than the disease echoes President Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week, when he tweeted about possibly loosening some restrictions in order to bolster the economy.
Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2020
In a statement Lewis issued this week, he applauded the Trump administration's 15-day "pause" to slow the spread of the virus, though he said it "cannot go on forever."
And by "forever," Lewis meant... Monday. That's when he thinks Minnesota should "start reopening for business for all but the most vulnerable of its residents." Kids can get a couple more weeks,according to Lewis, who thinks schools should reopen April 13.
In an open letter published in the Fargo Forum, Lewis wrote it's "next to impossible to enforce a law that people won’t follow. From prohibition to speed limits to closing businesses, sooner or later freedom-loving Americans will rebel.”
(Did Jason Lewis just come out against speed limits?)
And, in another section (note that he's also taken after Trump in labeling the virus):
We also know the Wuhan virus is disproportionately concentrated across the country. While the federal government has responsibility over national borders, which must be secured, state and local units of government must be free to act on local data. Therefore, those states, like Minnesota, where the outbreak is far less threatening should be open for business for the vast majority of its working age citizens while protecting its most vulnerable.
For the record, so far, freedom-loving Americans—at least in Minnesota—have been doing a great job staying put and following health experts’ guidelines. A data mining company monitoring our phones' GPS data gave Minnesota an 'A' for minimizing movements to prevent the spread of the virus.
State Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan has her doubts, too. On Wednesday, she asked her Twitter followers to consider the point at which the economy might become “irreparable and unrecoverable.”
We care about the health and safety of our world. That is not disputed. But, we also care about the vibrancy of our businesses, families and state. The two are not mutually exclusive. It shouldn’t have to be one or the other.— Jennifer Carnahan (@jkcarnah) March 25, 2020
A few commenters took issue with this argument. After all, the economy can always “recover.” Even after Wall Street crashed in 1929, we eventually bounced back. The same cannot be said of the dead.
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (a man of science) got a little closer to straddling the line. That same day, he tweeted that he “shared” Walz’s concerns about public health, but had “grave concerns” about the order.
“I share the Governor’s concerns about the safety and well-being of all Minnesotans. I also have grave concerns about his statewide ‘Stay-at-Home’ order, and the consequences for families when their jobs and businesses that provide their livelihood are lost” #mnleg @GovTimWalz— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) March 25, 2020
As for the business community, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sent out a statement on Wednesday praising Walz.
“We appreciate Governor Walz’s leadership and share his goal to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Minnesota, and to keep the private sector in position to return to productivity and full employment as soon as possible,” Chamber President Doug Loon said in a statement.
The decision also got a positive shout-out from the Minnesota Medical Association:
“This order gives Minnesota’s health care system the strongest possible chance to adequately prepare for the predicted impact of the virus,” President Keith Stelter said.
And the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians had this to say Monday:
On behalf of its nearly 3,200 family physician members, the MN Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter, today, urging @GovTimWalz to make a “shelter in place” declaration & shut down all non-essential businesses in MN for at least two weeks: https://t.co/v0oX7b2vik #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/sLlOoLar1E— MNFamilyPhysicians (@MNFamilyDocs) March 23, 2020
The inherent problem with preventative measures is we'll never know how much worse things could have been. That's the whole point. And plenty of the state’s public health experts and policymakers are just fine not finding out.
So, in the meantime, be responsible, stay home, and hang in there. For more on Walz’s order and what it actually means, you can follow this thread on the subject.
We must take bold action to save the lives of Minnesotans. As a former Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, I believe in having a plan – which is why I’m directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit their movements to essential services. #StayHomeMN pic.twitter.com/W2TAejwnBs— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) March 25, 2020