ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has signed a bill setting aside nearly $21 million for the state's coronavirus response.
The Minnesota House and Senate both voted unanimously to approve the transfer of $20.8 million from the general fund to the public health response contingency account. That's in addition to $4.6 million already in the account, making for just over $25 million to support virus investigation, outbreak monitoring, public information, statewide response coordination and lab analysis.
Walz said that this bill will allow those funds to go directly to MDH "with the assumption that there will more than likely, and probably, be more cases start to come up very quickly. This has been the pattern elsewhere."
"Having the resources to mitigate that, to get folks the treatment they need, to get folks self-quarantined, is the right thing to do," Walz said.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said they came to the $25 million figure by estimating things like the hours that would be needed from their staff, as well as funding to local public health and eight regional health care coalitions around the state.
Malcolm said the unanimous action from the lawmakers was quick and will help them get "ahead of the curve."
"We've, as you know, been ramping up testing in our laboratory, testing more and more submitted samples each day," she said. "As we expand the testing we frankly do expect to find more cases."
The single most important thing Minnesotans can do at this point, Malcolm said, is stay home when they are sick. She said it is too early to quantify how COVID-19 compares to other outbreaks.
"I think part of the challenge is this is such a rapidly evolving situation around the world," she said. "We’ve not seen something spread this quickly, really, it’s unprecedented in modern times.”
Malcolm said, though, that they're learning more "daily" in terms of the spread and severity of coronavirus. "So I don't think the cautions are overblown in any way, I think it's just extremely prudent for us all to do what we can do to keep ourselves healthy."
Lawmakers will most likely revisit the outbreak again this session, with an eye toward relief for people affected by the economic disruptions cause by illness and quarantines. That could include a revolving loan fund for businesses.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman said there are people who should take the advice to stay home but are tempted to work anyway because they can't afford to go without the paycheck. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says even workers who have paid sick time may not have enough to cover the full 14-day quarantine period.
He's in preliminary discussions with Speaker Hortman over how such legislation would be framed
In Minnesota, the state has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920. The hotline is open until 8 p.m. on March 6, and open 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday.
The Centers for Disease Control has an in-depth frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on its website with additional answers for people looking for more information about COVID-19 coronavirus.
KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215.