Walz extends COVID-19 peacetime emergency in Minnesota

Testing Booth (2)
A health-care worker in a novel booth tests people for the coronavirus in the Twin Cities.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Monday extending the COVID-19 peacetime emergency that gives the state flexibility in responding to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 continues to present an unprecedented and rapidly evolving challenge to our state,” Walz said. “The peacetime emergency has provided us tools to save lives and mitigate the devastating impacts of this pandemic. As cases skyrocket in other states, we can’t let our guard down now.”

Since Walz originally declared the peacetime emergency, Minnesota’s steps to provide relief for COVID-19 by enhancing protections for veterans in veterans homes, activating the National Guard to assist in relief efforts, partnering with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to launch a statewide testing strategy to test all symptomatic people and extending economic relief and stability to those the pandemic affects.

During the peacetime emergency, the State Emergency Operations Center remains fully staffed either physically or virtually by all state agencies and several volunteer organizations to provide essential services and information.
The SEOC received more than $1.7 million in supplemental emergency funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The SEOC is distributing the money to local emergency managers for their COVID-19 response expenses.
Logistics staffers in the SEOC are working with FEMA to prepare to move supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
The SEOC continues to support Minnesota National Guard efforts to conduct testing at long-term care facilities in the state.
The peacetime emergency also allowed the state to broker a breakthrough testing deal. In April, Walz, representatives of the state’s health care delivery systems, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota launched a statewide testing strategy to test all symptomatic people, isolate confirmed cases and expand public health surveillance tools.
In addition, the pact has permitted the state to:
• Establish free testing at six National Guard Armory locations across the state through the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
• Reach the milestone of a daily capacity of 20,000 COVID-19 molecular tests by this month.
• Complete more than 700,000 tests. As part of the state’s testing command center, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota are able to provide additional testing capacity to more than 265 health-care organizations across the state.
• Deploy this resource for numerous pop-up testing events, including Duluth, Moorhead, St. James, Faribault, Mower County, Minneapolis and St. Paul following protests and large gatherings in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
• Expand inpatient bed capacity by 2,287 beds across the state while also ensuring that no Minnesotan loses their health care or other benefits during this time.
• Waive program requirements to conform with federal requirements to receive an enhanced federal match for public programs. This resulted in more than $50 million a month in federal funding.
• Allow critical services to be delivered through telemedicine and make licensing flexible to make more services available.
• Allow out-of-state mental health providers to continue seeing patients in Minnesota. This is important to college students who were sent home but wanted to continue treatment.
• Suspend eviction proceedings during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Loss of housing is catastrophic at any time, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this loss endangers the health and well-being of all Minnesotans.
• Move to ensure that eligible laid off workers were able to access unemployment insurance benefits and that businesses’ “experience ratings” would not be impacted when former workers were provided UI benefits during the pandemic.
• Protect workers from unsafe working conditions and retaliation during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.