By STEVE KARNOWSKI
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Gov. Tim Walz has ordered Minnesota residents to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the disease from overwhelming the state's health care system.
Walz issued the order Wednesday. It begins at midnight Friday and goes until April 10.
He says the restrictions are critical to buy time to build up the state's capacity to handle a flood of infections. People will still be allowed to go to grocery stores and their doctors and buy gasoline. But the governor extended his order closing bars and restaurants to May 1. Schools will implement distance learning beginning Monday.
“We must take bold action to save the lives of Minnesotans,” Walz said in a news release. “Having served as a Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, I know the importance of having a plan. While the virus will still be here when this order ends, this action will slow the spread of COVID-19 and give Minnesota time to ready for battle.”
"I'm asking for your patience, your cooperation, and your understanding," Walz said in a live video message. "My pledge to you is to use the valuable time you're giving us."
According to the news release, Minnesotans may leave their homes only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
- Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
- Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
- Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation
Additionally, Walz said Minnesotans may leave to go to work if their work is in critical sectors including, but not limited to:
- Healthcare and public health
- Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
- Emergency shelters, congregate living facilities, drop-in centers
- Child care
- Food and agriculture
- News media
- Water and wastewater
- Critical manufacturing
As of Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed 287 cases of COVID-19 in the state. MDH said 122 people who tested positive no longer need to be in isolation.
Walz also said he is ordering a continuation of the closures of bars, restaurants and other public accommodations previously closed through May 1 at 5 p.m. He is issuing an order to implement a Distance Learning Period for Minnesota’s students from March 30 through May 4.
Walz had held off on issuing the order because he wanted to see data and modeling to show whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months.