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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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Select Committee holds hearing on US and Minnesota’s response to COVID-19

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — Today, the Minnesota House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding held a hearing on the United States and Minnesota response to COVID-19. The committee heard from Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and United States of Care Board Chair; Penny Wheeler, President and CEO, Allina Health; Kevin Roche, President, Roche Consulting; Dr. Sakina Naqvi, Doctors for Health Equity; and Jennifer DeCubellis, Chief Executive Officer, Hennepin Healthcare System.

“The health and well-being of Minnesotans is our top concern. It’s encouraging to see that the COVID-19 situation appears to be stable at this time in Minnesota yet we continue to see cases increasing here, and very concerning spikes in states across the country,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Minnesota needs to continue to chart our course based on advice from public health experts and sound medical science. Hopefully we can avoid the mistakes being made in other states. Our key objectives are to save lives, prevent needless suffering, keep our health care system from being overwhelmed, and keep businesses open.”

Fifty-four of 55 US states and territories are in a peacetime emergency, with Wisconsin being the only exception. Since declaring a peacetime emergency on March 13, Governor Walz has issued 67 executive orders related to COVID-19, with 39 orders currently in effect. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13 that remains in effect.

“There is still far too much we don’t know about COVID-19. The pandemic is not over, and the emergency has not passed,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “We should not be putting the lives of Minnesotans at unnecessary risk. While the pandemic has demanded sacrifices from Minnesotans and people all over the world, it won’t go away just because we’d like it to. We must continue prioritizing the health and well-being of Minnesotans.”

Amid recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Republican governors in Texas, Florida, and Arizona used their peacetime emergency authority to close bars and other businesses. Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries in several counties with the largest cities and issued an order requiring residents living in counties with more than 20 confirmed cases to wear masks. A number of hospitals in Texas are at full capacity or on track to be overwhelmed if conditions do not improve. In Arizona, 84 percent of inpatient beds and 89 percent of ICU beds were in use as of Monday.

"The state is doing many of the right things but there is still so much to learn about the virus, and I worry that the worst of it has yet to come to Minnesota,” said Slavitt. “We should continue to educate ourselves and reassess, learning lessons from other states who are facing this challenge."

Materials from the committee can be found here. Video of the hearing will be available here