Amid Spread Of COVID-19, Minnesota Legislature Limits Operations
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature on Monday scaled back its operations due to the growing number of new coronavirus cases in the state, all but adjourning for a month.
In a statement late Sunday, top House and Senate leaders from both parties said they would hold committee meetings and floor sessions on an on-call basis only through April 14. And when they do meet to pass time-sensitive, essential legislation — such as bills to bolster the state’s response to the pandemic — they’ll only use spaces that allow six feet of distance between people.
“We encourage Minnesotans to continue to reach out to their legislators by email, telephone and mail during this period while we are operating via alternate means,” the statement said.
The official online legislative schedule for the week showed dozens of canceled meetings.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within weeks. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases of COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better.
Minnesota had 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday morning, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Most of the patients reside in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, but there have also been confirmed cases in Olmstead, Renville, Stearns and Waseca counties in Greater Minnesota.
Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday ordered public schools to close by Wednesday through March 27 to give administrators and teachers time to make plans for switching to distance learning. Several districts canceled classes starting Monday, including St. Paul, while Minneapolis schools will close Tuesday.
The State Public Defender’s Office on Sunday urged the release of jail inmates across Minnesota to protect them from COVID-19. Chief Public Defender Bill Ward sent an email to staffers Sunday asking them to demand that their clients be released, calling the jails a “petri dish” of infection.