By Rep. Shane Mekeland
Most of our attention amid the COVID-19 outbreak has been on the here and now as we try to mitigate the spread of the virus. From the Stay-at-Home order to businesses closing and even the Legislature operating from home on an on-call basis, I don’t think any of us have seen times quite like these and “survival mode” has been the default.
My top priority right now is to ensure the people of Minnesota are as prepared as possible and that our state agencies and health care systems have the proper resources at their disposal. Immense praise goes to the Minnesota heroes who are caring for the ill, protecting our communities, educating our kids and keeping our state moving as best they can.
With those things in mind, we do need to be thinking about our future and we find ourselves entering treacherous – if not unprecedented – territory regarding the repeated, unilateral decisions by our governor. His dozens of executive orders include inconsistencies in application and beg the question of when enough is enough.
People are on edge, fearful of what the future holds when we come out on the other side of this COVID-19 challenge. I hear from business owners every day who say the governor’s forced shutdown could cause them to lose everything they’ve worked so hard to build.
We all want to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans. The latest modeling information provided by experts at the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota indicates that by protecting the vulnerable and continuing to observe social distancing, we can begin the process of bringing our economy back. For the last month, I have had the privilege of getting to know a constituent who spent more than four decades working as a microbiologist/epidemiologist with specialty in virology. He, too, sees a safe pathway back to work immediately. If we can avoid three more weeks of economic devastation without an increase in ICU demand or deaths, we should have that conversation.
The governor’s actions – however well-intended they may be – are presenting some real long-term, damaging consequences and his power needs to be checked. Two plans to address ease the burdens of the governor’s peacetime emergency declaration were brought to the floor Tuesday.
One proposal would lift the emergency declaration while also maintaining important measures to protect veterans, small businesses, and law enforcement as our response to COVID-19 continues. The other proposal was a wholesale lifting of the emergency declaration and all executive orders. I supported both proposals which, unfortunately, were defeated.
The fact remains people in our communities understand the dangers COVID-19 poses to our neighbors and are carful to do what is necessary to protect each other. We urge the governor to fully consider the impacts an extended Stay-at-Home order would have not only on the local economies, but on our relationships and communities.
House Republicans also are asking the governor to include members of the public, legislators, representatives from small businesses and large corporations, health care experts, and others in the planning process for the eventual reopening of Minnesota’s economy.
We’re at a crossroads and need to act now. Let’s get off the “essential” vs. “non-essential” workers discussion because every job is essential to someone for one reason or another.
We all want to do our part to protect the health and safety of our neighbors during this crisis. Please listen to the advice of experts and be sure to wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, cover your cough, and practice social distancing.
Minnesotans are strong people and we will work together to get through this. Let’s just keep the future in mind because we need a good place to land once we get there.