Coronavirus in one state (160)

Are we free at last? The big news is that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is to end his mask decree no later than July 1 and withdraw size restrictions on business and social gatherings on May 28. Effective at noon today, size limits on outdoor gatherings are out. Mandated early closing times at bars and restaurants are eliminated. Other restrictions continue in place, all as set forth in Walz Emergency Executive Order number 21 of 2021 under the alliterative heading “Safely Sunsetting COVID-19 Public Health Restrictions.”

The loosening of restrictions is taking place despite the fact that “most indicators of pandemic activity are above caution thresholds for Minnesota,” as Jeremy Olson puts it in his Star Tribune story on Walz’s announcement. Whichever way Walz flops, Olson and the Star Tribune will be on hand to flop with him.

The question remains. Will King Tim declare an end to the “emergency” under which he continues to exercise the royal prerogative? Olson’s story must run 1,000 words, but close readers can answer the question by inference: “Local jurisdictions will have the option after that to enforce their own mask policies. The city of Duluth in a statement noted that its mask requirement is slated to continue as long as Minnesota has a state of emergency declaration in place for the pandemic.” We infer that the answer is “no.”

The question is answered directly in Anthony Gockowski’s Alpha News story “Republicans slam Walz for ‘holding Minnesota hostage.’” Gockowski quotes state senator Julia Coleman (Norm Coleman’s daughter-in-law): “As long as Walz holds onto his emergency powers, he is essentially cutting out the Legislature and has free reign over the entire state.”

Gockowski also quotes House minority leader Kurt Daudt: “More than 14 months ago, we were told we needed two weeks to flatten the curve, protect our health care system, and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. The data clearly show we’ve made incredible progress reducing case counts and getting Minnesotans vaccinated, but the governor insists on holding on to powers he doesn’t need. It’s time to open up and end the emergency powers.” Good point.

Gockowski reports: “Walz’s timeline doesn’t include a clear date for when he will relinquish his emergency powers, a major issue for Republicans who have persistently objected to the governor’s unilateral control over the pandemic response.” One need not resort to inference to answer the question. Patrick Condon also answers the question directly in the Star Tribune story on the reaction of GOP leaders to Walz’s announcement.

None of these stories includes a summary of the restrictions that survive. It would be useful for those of us subject to King Tim’s royal decrees. However, the new executive order covers 11 pages and doesn’t make it easy.

The Minnesota Department of Health is obligated to answer three questions a week from me only so long as Walz’s declaration of emergency remains in place. With a little help from Kevin Roche, I hope to contribute slightly to the department’s desire to urge Walz to give it up. Kevin, by the way, comments on King Tim’s moves yesterday here.

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