Tuesday, March 10 was disability services day at the Minnesota State Capitol. It feels like a hundred years ago now. But as we watched the crowded lobbies filled with disabled citizens and their caregivers, packed onto elevators and squeezed into legislators’ offices, we realized that we were guilty of gross malpractice at the Capitol, and we were ourselves an immediate danger to the public health.

We took some initial steps to socially distance on the Capitol campus. Six days later, the Legislature passed a relief bill for $150 million to hospitals and then adjourned, and Gov. Tim Walz closed all bars and restaurants in the state.

Also on March 10, Minnesota had three cases of coronavirus. As of the time of this writing, we have 629; the number of new cases has increased steadily throughout the month of March. So when our fellow senators state that “we have flattened the curve … we are safer,” we don’t know what the hell they are talking about (“Thoughtful rules could spare us loss and suffering,” March 31).

Sens. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin and Dr. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, say we should relax the executive orders that have been issued by Gov. Walz. The executive orders were accompanied by a careful explanation of the research that supported their necessity — the slow but inexorable rise that we will see here in infections and death, and the likely exhaustion of our critical care beds.

The senators’ recommendations carry no such research; they seem to be based on a gut feeling and a general impatience.

Ironically, the commentary begins with a heartfelt appeal for the safety of disabled citizens. But the behavior of these leaders has put disabled people and other medically vulnerable people at increased risk from day one — from their refusal to support our basic social distancing recommendations and continuing to hold committee hearings at the Capitol, to this, their latest anti-science missive.

The pain of these executive orders is not lost on anyone. We all have neighbors who are suffering and will continue to suffer. They were issued with a full respect for the human and financial costs they will incur.

We know that as we move beyond the immediate emergency, the governor will consult regularly with our state epidemiologists and disaster preparedness experts, as he has done from the start. But to suggest we should reverse course without any evidence that such a move is not a clear danger to our health is beyond irresponsible.

 

Dr. Matt Klein, DFL-Mendota Heights, and Jeffrey Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, are members of the Minnesota Senate.