• 70°

Minnesota’s Response to COVID-19

By Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

We are entering an unprecedented time as we all work together to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus and its effects on every aspect of our lives. From our public health care system, to our schools, and to our economy, this will be a significant disruption to each and every one of us. However, we must come together in these times to help one another.

Several important steps have been taken since Gov. Walz declared a peacetime emergency on March 13. Early Tuesday morning, the legislature passed a bill directing an additional $200 million to the state’s response. Of this, $150 million went to a new health care response fund and $50 million went to the public health response contingency account for purposes related to COVID-19. This funding will help strengthen Minnesota’s public health care system.

Gov. Walz has been in consultation with public health officials on additional steps to prepare Minnesota for the effects of COVID-19. He has signed a series of executive orders to protect the members of our community and to help our public health care system be ready for this virus. Each of these steps have been taken to help “flatten the curve” and to limit the spread of this virus.

The difficult decision by the governor to temporarily close our schools, as well as bars, restaurants, and many other businesses was made with the best interests and health of our communities in mind. This leaves hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans with either severely reduced hours or a complete lack of employment for the time being, including many in our own community. If you or someone you know has been impacted by these recent closures and restrictions, unemployment benefits are available. You can find an overview of Minnesota’s unemployment benefits here: www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp.

Several hotlines have been set up to help address questions and concerns people may have about this situation.

School and childcare questions:

•Call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)

•Visit www.education.mn.gov

•Childcare providers with questions should call 1-888-234-1268

•Health questions: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)

•Visit www.health.state.mn.us

•Questions for workers and employers: 651-259-7114 or 800-657-3858

•Visit www.mn.gov/deed

The most important thing each one of us should be doing is following the guidelines from the Department of Health. This page has the most up to date information available about what steps you should be taking: www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html.

In the interest of public health, the legislature has taken unprecedented measures including adopting an “on-call” posture and temporarily adjourning until March 26 at the earliest. We will meet when called to pass legislation that has been agreed to by both parties, and as circumstances change we stand ready to help. If you have any questions, concerns, or are looking for help, please do not hesitate reach out to my office, and we will do everything we can to help. Now more than ever, it is critical that we come together for our community.