Walz self-quarantines; wrestles with shelter-in-place order

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz walks into a news conference in St. Paul, Monday, March 16. Walz ordered bars and restaurants across Minnesota to temporarily close to customers who dine in amid fears of coronavirus cases. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)


Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz quarantined himself Monday after a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19, but the governor said he’s still wrestling with whether to order residents to shelter in place.

Walz said he felt fine with no symptoms but would lead by example and work from home for 14 days as he leads the state’s effort to manage the pandemic. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said her husband has been hospitalized with COVID-19, and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said her brother died of the disease in Tennessee.

“Before we’re done with this, each and every one of us will be touched by this, probably very personally,” Walz said in a conference call with reporters. “The numbers run pretty high ... over the course of this between 40 and 80% of Minnesotans will have become infected with COVID-19.”

Minnesota’s confirmed case count shot up to 235 as of Monday, a jump of 66 from Sunday. One person died Saturday but no new deaths have been reported since. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said 12 infected people were hospitalized, including five in intensive care. She stressed that the number of infected Minnesotans is likely much higher.

For most people, the 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.

Several other states and countries have issued shelter-in-place orders, including neighboring Wisconsin. Walz said he’s still not prepared to take that step but that he “very soon could be.” He said he wants to see more data and modeling showing whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months.

Walz also said he may have to extend school closures for the rest of the academic year, as Virginia did Monday. He said teachers have “risen to the occasion” with distance and online learning.

Walz signed four executive orders Monday, including measures to suspend evictions; establish a small business emergency loan program; require companies to inventory their personal protective equipment, ventilators and respirators and report the results to the state; and to clarify that a temporary ban on elective surgeries and medical procedures also applies to veterinarians to conserve supplies.

The governor also revised his supplemental budget proposal to add $356 million more toward the state’s COVID-19 fight.

Klobuchar said in a statement that her husband, John Bessler, began feeling sick when she was in Minnesota and he was in Washington, and that he immediately quarantined himself. The former presidential candidate said her husband sought a test and chest X-ray after he began coughing up blood, and that he was checked into a Virginia hospital with “very low oxygen levels, which really haven’t improved.”

Bessler developed pneumonia and was on oxygen but not on a ventilator, Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar said her doctor advised her not to get a test because they have been in different places for the last two weeks.

Flanagan said her brother, Ron Golden, died on Saturday in Tennessee. He had been diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago and his immune system was compromised, she said.

“He fought it as hard as he could but it was simply too much for his body. THIS is why we must #StayHome,” she wrote in an Instagram post late Sunday.

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