The COVID-19 situation (or coronavirus, as it's commonly referred to), is unfolding nearly as quickly as we can provide updates. But I wanted to send an update specifically focused on what we do know, what we're doing at the state level, and what Minnesotans can do to prevent the spread of this virus.
As we are likely to face increasing challenges, the legislature’s responsibility is to ensure Minnesota is prepared to respond. We are taking proactive and thoughtful action to address this issue.
Public health officials in Minnesota are working around the clock to prepare for and stop the spread of COVID-19. At the Capitol, the House, Senate, Department of Health (MDH), and Governor’s Office are in near-constant communication to ensure we can quickly work to prevent further outbreak.
On March 10, Governor Tim Walz signed into law legislation that authorizes nearly $21 million for our public health response to COVID-19. I’m proud that the legislature moved quickly and collaboratively (the funding passed with unanimous support in both the House and Senate) to provide the Minnesota Department of Health with additional resources. But there is more we need to do.
On March 11, my colleagues announced a package of legislation to further address COVID-19. The bills would:
- Require health plans to cover all costs of testing, treatment, and quarantine related to COVID-19.
- Ban price gouging of necessary goods and services during an emergency.
- Compensate hourly school workers for days canceled or missed due to COVID-19.
- Expand the Governor’s authority to declare public health emergencies as possible peacetime emergencies.
- Establish a loan account for health care providers.
- Expand unemployment insurance and sick leave benefits during times of emergency.
Minnesotans are encouraged to thoroughly and frequently wash their hands, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home when they are sick, to practice social distancing by avoiding large gatherings as much as possible, and to stay informed. The MDH website (www.health.state.mn.us) is a great resource, and a public hotline (651-201-3920) will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
With the rise of concerns about COVID-19, there has been a troubling increase in incidents of xenophobia and racism. These acts of exclusion, harassment, and hate speech do nothing to prevent viruses and other illnesses from spreading. In fact, these actions only impair our ability to work together as a community at a crucial time. Infectious diseases can only be fought with solidarity and cooperation.
I encourage anyone with questions or concerns to reach out to my office – we can work together to ensure Minnesota is prepared to navigate this public health crisis. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8799.
Rep. Kaohly Her