Coronavirus in one state (76)

Apart from the effects of Governor Walz’s executive orders, the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic were virtually indetectable in Minnesota yesterday. The authorities reported only four new deaths. Three of the four new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. Although the data included 507 new cases, hospitalizations continue at a relatively low level. They tell us that deaths and hospitalizations nevertheless represent lagging indicators and that additional measures must be taken to suppress the spread of the disease.

They also told us that we were now to be in a wave of death and disaster that required the purchase of a refrigerated warehouse facility in downtown St. Paul for storing the bodies of the deceased that our mortuary industry couldn’t handle, and requiring the rental of a building in suburban St. Paul for hospital overflow, but put that to one side. They also told us that 50,000 Minnesotans would die of the disease under the best of circumstances. Anyone can make mistakes. However, they have yet to concede that “mistakes were made.”

In any event, yesterday was a perfect day to add to Governor Walz’s rule by decree. Governor Walz promulgated executive order number 81 of 2020 requiring Minnesotans to wear a face mask in all public indoor spaces and indoor businesses. The order is effective Saturday. The Department of Health update on the requirement is posted here along with links to related pages.

Paragraph 20 is the enforcement provision of the order. Violation of the order by an individual is a petty misdemeanor subject to a $100 fine. In the case of a business, however, violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to criminal enforcement including a fine of up to $1000 and imprisonment of a business owner, manager, or supervisor up to 90 days.

Knowing that former Nation of Islam hustler Keith Ellison is the Attorney General, Governor Walz added this enforcement provision allowing him to get in on the action: “In addition to these criminal penalties, the Attorney General, as well as city and county attorneys, may seek any civil relief available pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 8.31, for violations of this Executive Order, including civil penalties up to $25,000 per occurrence from businesses and injunctive relief.”

I may have missed it, but I didn’t hear Governor Walz mention the aspects of the enforcement provision applicable to businesses at his press conference yesterday. Discussing enforcement, Walz sounded like Rodney King pleading for amity. One would have had no idea that resistance might land a guy in jail or authorize a fine that might put him out of business.

You can tell they have thought this through. Paragraph 10 of the order sets forth exceptions to the rule. My favorite part is the subparagraph carving out an exception for the state of solitude:

j. When an individual is alone, including when alone in an office, a room, a cubicle with walls that are higher than face level when social distancing is maintained, a vehicle, or the cab of heavy equipment or machinery, or an enclosed work area. In such situations, the individual should still carry a face covering to be prepared for person-to-person interactions and to be used when no longer alone.

Paragraph 10 has a laughter is the best medicine quality to it. Here are a few more exceptions to the rule:

c. When testifying, speaking, or performing in an indoor business or public indoor space, in situations or settings such as theaters, news conferences, legal proceedings, governmental meetings subject to the Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes 2019, Chapter 13D), presentations, or lectures, provided that social distancing is always maintained. Face shields should be considered as an alternative in these situations.

e. During activities, such as swimming or showering, where the face covering
will get wet.

f. When eating or drinking in an indoor business or indoor public space, provided that at least 6 feet of physical distance is maintained between persons who are not members of the same party.

g. When asked to remove a face covering to verify an identity for lawful
purposes.

h. While communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a face covering difficult, provided that social distancing is maintained to the extent possible between persons who are not members of the same household.

i. While receiving a service—including a dental examination or procedure, medical examination or procedure, or personal care service—that cannot be performed or would be difficult to perform when the individual receiving the service is wearing a face covering. Workers performing services for an individual who is allowed to temporarily remove their face covering under this provision must comply with face covering requirements in the applicable industry guidance, available at the Stay Safe Minnesota website [URL omitted].

As I say, you can see they have thought this through. The provisions applicable to K-12 schools, however, are not funny at all.

Governor Walz called a press conference to announce the new order (video below). As Ed Sullivan used to say back in the day, Walz had a really big show in store for us. Walz badly wanted Republican legislative leaders to support his mask order. He made no effort to conceal his annoyance with them when asked about their critical comments by one of the reporters. I’m not sure what time the text of the order was made available, but in their questions the reporters showed no evidence of having familiarized themselves with its terms and their stories today aren’t much better.

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