We are approaching 180 days since Gov. Tim Walz’s declared a peacetime emergency at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak. It is expected he will extend his emergency powers again in a few days, at which point he will be forced to call the Legislature back into session.
The Senate has voted to cancel his emergency powers during every previous special session this summer. I will again vote to end his powers this month, if given the opportunity. However, it seems futile – House Democrats are in lockstep with Gov. Walz, and Gov. Walz certainly will not give up his powers voluntarily any time soon.
We have learned a lot since the start of the pandemic, and we are learning more every day. One thing is clear: virtually every model they used to frighten us at the beginning of the pandemic has been massively off base. Yes, some of this may be due to the emergency measures we took, but the Governor even warned that deaths would be staggering even with the emergency measures. The truth is that it just hasn’t played out the way we were told it would.
Looking at the numbers, we appear to be past the worst of it. One of the most common figures reported in the daily news is case growth. However, the more important figure to look at is percentage of tests that come back positive. That number is hovering right around 5% — roughly the same as it has been for months, and far below April peaks of 15% or more.
It’s hard not to look at the facts and data without concluding that the public health emergency has passed. We have met all the benchmarks the governor laid out when he declared the emergency. We have enough PPE. We have enough beds. We can handle any further spikes. The numbers are promising and have been for a while.
It begs the question: what do we need to achieve for the governor to finally give up his emergency powers?
In recent days we have sent the governor’s office two separate letters asking him that very question. What are the parameters by which he will be willing to end the emergency and let Minnesotans safely get back to normal?
We still have not received an answer.
Every day I hear from workers who are struggling just to get by and businesses who on the brink of being forced to close. Just this week, popular Minneapolis beer hall Surly announced they were closing their doors. In their announcement, they noted on-site food and beer sales were down 82%, and they did not turn a profit in July.
Government mandates, even if they have been slightly relaxed, are putting businesses in a bad spot. According to Hospitality Minnesota, 40% of hospitality businesses are in danger of closing by the end of the year.
And yet, we still don’t know what the end of this looks like. Is the Governor planning to hold on to his powers forever? Will he keep them for another year?
We know how to manage the virus. We are taking it seriously, and we know how to be safe. But workers and businesses are still in trouble because the governor is keeping his iron grip on his extra power. We deserve to know what objectives we need to meet in order to return to normal. Minnesotans have been very understanding, but we all deserve clarity from the governor about what the end of this pandemic might look like.