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Walz takes aim at inaction on COVID-19 relief

Appeals to legislature to help restaurants, workers, calls federal inaction "dysfuntional"

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — With an additional 3,773 cases and 94 deaths — the second-highest one-day total in Minnesota — state health officials on Friday, Dec. 11, delivered a mixed message about the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prospects for lifting restrictions.

The 94 deaths were, as usual, sobering. Citing 250 deaths in the last 72 hours, "that's approaching what we lose in a year on the highways," Gov. Tim Walz said during a Friday afternoon news conference.

But other markers suggest the state may be cresting to a peak.

"There are some decreases that are fairly significant on case positivity," Walz said, adding that the state's current 6.5% seven-day case positivity is half what it was recently, and is a number last seen in September and October.

Then again, at 85 cases per 100,000, "we are still many times over what we would consider a high-risk threshold," said state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm, who added that the ratio ideally should be below 10 cases per 100,000.


Walz took time out to expressly plea for the state House, which is meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, to provide immediate relief to businesses and workers that are most affected by the virus, such as restaurants.

"We should make it easier for a business to do the right thing," Walz said. "If you are a business that just because of the nature of it, the virus spreads more, there needs to be support there for you.

"Unfortunately with COVID, it doesn't hit all businesses equally, it's like a tornado that went through and hit restaurants, and left other buildings standing. That is horribly unfair and it causes immense economic pain for those folks."

Friday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against the Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks, Minn., alleging that the business refused to comply with Executive Order 20-99, which prohibits on-premises dining through Dec. 18. Boardwalk owners Jane Moss and Dan Stauss reopened on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 9, despite the order, which Walz signed in mid-November in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Walz on Friday reserved his strongest ire for the lack of assistance from Washington, D.C.

"D.C. is dysfunctional," the governor said. "The federal government has had nine months since they moved on anything. They need to move."

"Do the job. Do the job you were sent there to do. Don't be signing your names on pieces of paper that don't matter," Walz added, the latter an apparent shot at the state's three GOP representatives making news this week for signing on to a lawsuit to overturn the results of the presidential election in Texas.

Health officials said that they are hopeful that the state will be able to reduce its mitigation measures, but seemed to hold out an option for keeping those measures in place while providing financial assistance.


"It looks like behavior has changed, and that there was an impact there," Walz said. "We have another week to see that impact."

"It looks like we're coming over the top of that peak, the question is, how much we get over that in the next seven days when the pause ends .... It would be my hope we would pass some relief next week."

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  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website .

Paul John Scott is the health reporter for NewsMD and the Rochester Post Bulletin. He is a novelist and was an award-winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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