ST PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz has instructed his cabinet to draw up rules that would allow some sidelined workers to return to the job if it can be done safely with social distancing.
In his Executive Order 20-33 Gov. Walz extended the statewide stay-at-home order until May 4. The same order added landscapers, lawn care workers and some garden center employees to the categories of critical workers allowed to work during the coronavirus.
The governor said the Dept. of Agriculture is creating a full list of guidelines for those outdoor workers, including protocols for social distancing.
"This will not be turning on a light switch," Walz said, in response to questions about how soon the state's workforce can return to normal.
"This will be a complex way of restarting the economy, where you’re going to have to in a proper order because the one thing I am most worried about is signaling to anyone, to the healthcare industry or Minnesotans that we’re out of the woods and we can relax what we’re doing. That’s not what this says."
The governor has been under growing pressure to loosen up the rules to allow more professionals and small businesses to start working again, especially those who can do so in relative isolation. The arrival of warmer temperatures and greener grass led some point out that landscapes in places such as golf courses can't be allowed to grow out of control.
Walz says he's listening and working to broaden the list, and work with individual employers.
"It may be an agreement with a manufacturer. Maybe they make solar panels, and there's no worker within 20 feet in a large warehouse and they don't touch anything."
Click here to read the modifications to the governor's original list of critical workers.
At the same time, the governor's overall message remains to stay at home. He said he doesn't want Minnesota to lose the gains it has made slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
"I will not sacrifice the health of Minnesotans and the gains we’ve made," he told reporters during a televised briefing at the Dept. of Safety's Emergency Operations Center Wednesday.
"These hard-earned gains, fights and sacrifices can be lost virtually overnight if we don’t do this right."
Public health officials have predicted the state’s coronavirus infections will peak in early May to early June, but the governor hopes to delay that peak to early July by extending the stay-at-home order. That will buy the state’s health systems more time to acquire more ventilators and personal protection equipment for the surge in hospitalizations.
The Minnesota Department of Health may release new peak predictions later this week.
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 see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11.
The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.