ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that he doesn't think it's necessary yet to follow the lead of California and some other states and order Minnesotans to shelter in place to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, but he cautioned that he may have to at some point.
In the week since Walz declared a state of emergency as the coronavirus gained a foothold in Minnesota, he has repeatedly said he wasn't ready to take a certain action — close schools, close bars and restaurants — only to do just that as the situation deteriorated.
As the state's total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 115 on Friday, he issued several orders to help Minnesotans hurt by the pandemic but told reporters he wasn't ready yet to order people to shelter in place.
"I, at this point in time, am not prepared to make that (decision), but I am prepared that some time in the future — if it becomes necessary with the data and where we're at — to make that decision," Walz said at a briefing.
The state reported 26 new cases on Friday, which was up from 89 on Thursday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Eight cases have required hospitalizations and two patients were in intensive care, said Kris Ehresmann, the department's infectious disease director. The real number of people with the disease is likely much higher because it is likely spreading throughout the state but only priority patients qualify for testing, she said.
Employment Commissioner Steve Grove said the state had received over 95,000 new applications for unemployment insurance under the state's eased rules this week, compared with a previous record of 18,000. About a third of them came from the bar, restaurant and entertainment industries, which have been hit hard by the governor's order to shut them down with exceptions for takeout and delivery food.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The governor signed three executive orders Friday, including one aimed at combating price gouging on essential goods. Minnesotans can report price gouging by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787 or via the website of the attorney general, who will enforce the order.
The other executive orders give the state Department of Human Services authority to waive state requirements and seek waivers from federal requirements for a range of programs to provide more flexibility.
The governor and the state-run health insurance exchange MNsure announced a 30-day special enrollment period for uninsured residents.
And he announced a partnership with the YMCA to care for the school-age children of emergency workers at 38 locations across Minnesota.
Walz said an announcement is also in the works to follow the lead of the federal government, which announced Friday that it's pushing back the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.