We’re not a patient culture, but in the midst of a growing pandemic, lives depend on self-restraint.
Gov. Tim Walz made a reasonable request of Minnesotans on Wednesday: Stay home the next two weeks unless you absolutely must leave. If we ignore the executive order, models developed by the state Department of Health and the University of Minnesota show the state will run out of hospital intensive-care units before COVID-19 infection rates peak.
Other states, including Wisconsin, have moved more quickly to enact their versions of Minnesota’s new “stay at home” order. Walz and state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm were guided by data that show the benefits of social distancing that keeps as many people as possible in place and prohibits large gatherings. The state order takes effect at midnight Friday.
Bars and restaurants will remain closed, except for pickup and delivery, at least until May 1, and schools will continue with online learning until May 4. Clinics, grocery stores, gas stations and, yes, liquor stores will remain open, but limiting trips will help slow the spread of the disease. Other essential businesses and city services will still be operating.
Minnesotans will be able to walk the dog and take a walk or run, although they should remain at a safe distance from others.
Walz is not making promises about a return to business as usual, even though he acknowledged the significant economic trade-offs. After two weeks, he hopes to return to more moderate social distancing guidelines for another three weeks before turning the focus to the elderly and those with underlying health problems who are more at risk of COVID-19 complications. The dates are flexible, but at least they give Minnesotans some goals.
It’s understandable if Minnesotans feel whipsawed by conflicting messages, but Walz is not to blame. Some politicians in this state and elsewhere apparently think they’ll gain support by urging an end to certain restrictions, either immediately or by dates they have mysteriously deemed appropriate.
President Donald Trump, who spent Easter 2019 at Mar-a-Lago and attended church in Palm Beach, only added to the mixed messages Tuesday by pining for “packed churches all over our country” this year. Easter is April 12.
In Minnesota, Walz is trying to avoid packed ICUs and inadequate supplies. “What our objective is now is to move the infection rate or slow it down and buy time,” he said Wednesday.
It’s a harsh reality, but it’s one Minnesotans can adjust to with lives at stake.