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Walz extends Minnesota's coronavirus state of emergency

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday won legislative approval to extend Minnesota’s peacetime state of emergency by another 30 days so he can continue to use executive orders to direct the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the Legislature in session through mid-May, the governor no longer needs to call special sessions to give lawmakers a chance to rescind his decision each time he extends the peacetime emergency. He called seven special sessions last year.

Walz noted at a brief meeting of the Executive Council — which ratified his decision on a 5-0 vote — that Tuesday was the deadliest day of the pandemic nationwide.

“We in Minnesota are in a slightly better position, but as a nation we are in the grips of the worst public health pandemic that our nation has ever seen, and it is not abating at this time,” he said.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told the council that the governor’s prior executive orders helped the state get through a surge in November and December. The state is in a better place now, she said, “but still in a high risk place for future spread.”

Minnesota has now recorded 440,354 coronavirus cases, averaging about 10,000 new cases per week, with 5,774 deaths, averaging about 40 deaths per day, the commissioner said.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday reported 1,505 new cases and 50 new deaths. The department also reported that 146,901 people in Minnesota had received at least their first vaccine doses as of Sunday, including 7,928 who had already received their second dose. It said 2.7% of the state’s population has now had at least one dose. Speakers at a Minnesota Senate hearing decried the pace as far too slow given the virus’ high threat to older people.

“Conditions remain very fragile and volatile,” Malcolm said, adding that she expects cases to rise as economic and social activity pick up.

Bars and restaurants were allowed to resume limited indoor service on Monday with social distancing and other safeguards under an order the governor issued last week. Elementary schools can resume in-person classes starting next Tuesday. High school teams can play games once again with restrictions on crowd sizes.