COVID-19: We can’t let our guard down

As we approach another major decision by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on whether or not to extend the stay-at-home order, some local government officials are lobbying to let most businesses open up.

On Monday, the cities of Wood Lake and Cottonwood sent letters to Walz to allow their small businesses to open up.

“The closing of these ‘non-essential’ businesses has resulted in real life consequences for these businesses, employees and the city and county they live in, not to mention for the entire economy of the state of Minnesota,” Wood Lake Mayor David Stelter wrote in his letter dated May 10 to Walz. “These local small businesses most certainly contribute less risk to the health of the community than the ‘big box’ stores that we are forced to utilize in their stead.”

A letter dated May 11 from the city of Cottonwood, was also sent to Walz.

“The small businesses of Cottonwood geographically compete with the economy located only 13 miles away in Marshall, Minnesota where big box stores and choices to dine out are in abundance. Now they are faced with the new challenge of competing with the state of South Dakota, only 40 miles away, who opened services to their residents and attracting Minnesota consumers in droves,” the letter states. “These small businesses do everything for their community to ensure the economy of Cottonwood thrives and the citizens are serviced with the greatest level of hospitality and love that will go above and beyond to ensure their customers are safe and in the cleanest care that can be provided.”

Last week, a survey conducted by the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and the Marshall Economic Development Authority found that Marshall area businesses were reporting a loss of customers and negative economic impact in the wake of Walz’s executive orders.

Then there was the open defiance of Walz’s order by the city of Lakefield. The City Council passed a resolution last week declaring Lakefield a “constitutional and business-friendly community.” The resolution said it would not direct any resources toward enforcing the state orders.

And the Minnesota State Senate on Monday passed a bill that would allow most businesses to reopen. That bill has little support in the House.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned bluntly Tuesday during a U.S. Senate hearing of “really serious” consequences of suffering, death and deeper economic damage if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly, even as President Donald Trump pushes them to act to right a free-falling economy.

Walz has a lot to consider as he mulls over all the options. While the voices grow louder to open the state up more economically, the numbers of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths continue to climb. But there is one big positive to come out of the stay-at-home orders. Those orders have given medical systems valuable time to secure adequate supplies and prepare for COVID-19 surges.

Knowing that, Walz can feel confident that one of his goals has been accomplished. But he also knows COVID-19 is still a deadly threat.

We urge the governor to continue his measured approach in his decision-making. On past remarks in his daily briefings, Walz has indicated that shutting down businesses indefinitely is not feasible. All businesses will need to open up sooner or later. But how much later?

No matter what the governor decides, we urge residents and businesses to not let their guard down. That’s because the virus knows no boundaries. It only takes one infected person to enter any small community and spread the virus.

This virus is not going away anytime soon.

Important practices like social distancing, wearing masks in public and observing proper hygiene will need to be practiced for some time.


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