Two questions are front of mind for me today: 1) is there another Special Session in our future? And 2) is our economic recovery stalling? Regarding the first: Probably. The existing Peacetime Emergency in Minnesota expires on July 12th, and if Governor Walz wishes to extend it for another 30 days, Minnesota law requires him to call the Legislature back into special session. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has indicated that if the Governor calls them back, he only wants to spend one day in session. The agenda is likely to include: a bonding bill, police reform and accountability legislation, a tax bill, debate on the Governor’s Peacetime Emergency powers, and various other items. No bills are still alive from the regular session or from the first special session that was held June 12-19. Regarding the second: not sure, but we are most definitely NOT out of the woods. This AP story reviewed indicators:
The number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely fell last week
Reopening of small businesses has leveled off (and more are closing in other states)
The U.S. government reported at the end of June that the economy contracted at a 5% annual rate in the first three months of the year
The economy is expected to shrink at a roughly 30% rate in the current quarter (that would be the worst quarterly contraction, by far, since record-keeping began in 1948. Economists do expect a snap-back in the second half of the year, though not enough to reverse all the damage)
A separate government report last Thursday said orders for durable goods unexpectedly jumped nearly 16% in May, reflecting a rebound in some business activity. But then, in June, other news of slowdowns (also from the NBC article): Disney is postponing their reopening from mid-July; Macy’s is cutting 4000 corporate jobs; Apple is re-closing 7 stores in Houston, and 11 more in other states. These figures coincide with a sudden resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. especially in the south and west. As we look at Minnesota’s virus numbers, we do not appear to be experiencing a similar spike – yet. We all must do our part to protect one another while encouraging the growth of commerce. We simply can’t afford to “dial back.” So what can I do to help? In order to “Stay Open,” we must encourage one another to “Stay Safe.” Resource Updates:
Funding for General Operating and Capital Support:
Administration Updates - Monday, MDH Commissioner Malcolm
Nationally, we are seeing a daily growth rate of 40-50K case/day, fastest growth rate we’ve seen yet.
Average over 3-day weekend: 11.5K tests/day, 450 positives each day.
Over last week, 14.9% increase in # of tests and 7.6% increase in # of positives. That is the ratio we hope to see continue: higher increase in # of tests than positives each day.
Rolling 7-day average now is at 4%.
Median age of positive cases continues to decline, now at 38.4 years old. This is a notable drop over the last month.
Counties in Greater MN we’d been watching are slowing down compared to last month.
Modified “dial-back measure”: Threshold for testing/population/week. As testing capacity expands, we have raised the bar here. Prior threshold was 50 tests per 10K people per week. New threshold is 100 tests per 10K people per week. 2 weeks ago, we were at 16K tests/day which translates to 200 tests/10K people/week. So we are ahead of this goal. Statewide, we’ve been over the 100 tests/week threshold for at least 3 weeks now.
New “dial-back measure”: Rate of new cases/100K people: this is a new measure to track case growth, to replace “case doubling time” measure. New measure, “new cases per population,” is a better way to look at where we are in the epidemic. Rate of new cases per 100K people, averaged over 7 days. Our threshold is 5 new cases per 100K residents, averaged over rolling 7 days. Easier to identify outbreaks or increases in new cases. Statewide, above this threshold. We are at 7.7 new cases per 100K residents over last 7 days, which translates to approximately 435 cases/day. Threshold of 5 is equivalent to about 283 cases/day. Advantage is that it is population-based. Can better compare regions to one another.
Possible Statewide Mask Mandate in Minnesota: on Friday, the Governor and Dept of Health Commissioner shared the possibility of a Minnesota mask mandate in response to serious spikes in coronavirus and re-closures of businesses in other states. Walz argued wearing a mask is one of the single most effective things that can be done to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but acknowledged it has become political and that it is uncomfortable to wear a mask in the extreme heat.
Buildings damaged in Minneapolis, St. Paul after riotsFrom the Star Tribune, July 6: Follow this link to a map of properties damaged in the first few days after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Rioters tore through dense stretches of Minneapolis, St. Paul and other metro communities in retaliation, causing millions in property damage to more than 1,500 locations.
Walz urged to require Minnesotans to wear masks in COVID-19 fightFrom Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 2: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is being urged to require residents of the state to wear masks when out in public, as COVID-19 cases hit record highs nationally and health officials worry infections may regain dangerous momentum here.
Large Minnesota nonprofits caught in stimulus aid gap, face cost-cutting From the Star Tribune, July 3: Nine Minnesota groups ineligible for stimulus are turning to Congress. Nonprofits with more than 500 employees don’t qualify for the federal aid that smaller Minnesota nonprofits have received. So a group of nine social service nonprofits are pushing Minnesota’s congressional delegation for help
Coronavirus in Minnesota: MDH Reports 426 New COVID-19 Cases and 4 Deaths; Hospitalizations Fall To Lowest Level In 2 MonthsFrom CBS, July 1: Minnesota health officials on Wednesday announced 426 more confirmed cases and four more deaths. Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to trend downward. The new cases bring the state’s total positive cases to 36,716. Of that number, 31,947 have recovered and no longer need isolation. Nearly 3,700 health care workers have been infected since the start of the outbreak. So far, over 4,000 people have needed to be hospitalized for the virus in the state, but hospitalizations have been trending down recently — and are now at the lowest levels in two months. Currently, there are 260 in the hospital, with 125 of those patients being in the ICU.
U.S. Senate extends Paycheck Protection ProgramFrom KTOE, July 1: The US Senate, just hours before the expiration of the small business loan Paycheck Protection Program, passed an extension of the program to August 8th. The move to keep the application process for the program open comes as it was set to expire with more than $130 billion in allocated funds that remain unused. The legislation still needs to clear the U.S. House.
Minnesota to spend $9M on COVID-19 ad push From MPR, June 30: Minnesota will commit nearly $9 million toward an all-platform, statewide ad campaign around minimizing risks, accessing testing options and taking other measures to contain COVID-19. The public awareness effort and the money for it were approved over the objections of Republican lawmakers on a six-member legislative panel. Gov. Tim Walz’s administration intends to use part of a federal relief allocation to pay for the expense. According to a summary provided to the Legislative Advisory Commission, the goal is to “help all Minnesotans understand their role in the recovery from COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
Coronavirus – US Map and Case CountFrom the New York Times, July 5: More than 2,859,700 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 129,600 have died, according to a New York Times database. This map shows where the number of new cases is rising and where it is falling in the last 14 days.-
Minnesota Senate: There was a Minnesota Senate hearing last week on the topic of civil unrest in Minneapolis. Senators heard from business owners on and around Lake Street whose businesses were looted and/or burned. Another Senate hearing will take place this week on similar topics.
Minnesota House: There was a House hearing last week on the topic of rebuilding the Lake Street area. The hearing was held at Plaza Verde on Lake Street in Minneapolis, and members discussed the Civil Unrest Repair and Rebuild Legislation. The House intends to hold a series of town hall meetings around the state to discuss rebuilding efforts and police reform. Read this summary of the legislation referenced above.
Legislative hearings this week include: (we expect more will be added)
House Energy Committee – Electric Cogeneration Activity Power Purchase Agreement Informational Hearing on Tuesday
House Oversight Committee on COVID – presentation from Andy Slavitt, United States of Care, on Wednesday
House Jobs – informational hearing on possible extension of Unemployment Benefits on Thursday
Senate Judiciary/Transportation hearings on civil unrest to be announced
Possible special session on Friday, July 10th
COVID-19 update as of 7/6/2020 Confirmed cases in Minnesota: 38,569 % Positives, last 7 days (as of 7/6): 4.0% Confirmed cases in U.S.: almost 3M Confirmed cases globally: over 11.5M Cases requiring hospitalization: 4,219 (representing 10.9% of total) #s currently hospitalized: 258 (down from 278 on 7/2) #s no longer needing to be isolated: 33,907 #s tested: 679,693 Total deaths in Minnesota: 1,474 (1,156/78.4% cases in long term care or assisted living facilities) Total deaths in U.S.: over 130K Total deaths globally: over 535K Cases in Counties represented: Hennepin County: 12,456 (787 deaths) Ramsey County: 4,911 (228 deaths) Dakota County: 2,382 (91 deaths) Washington County: 1,114 (40 deaths)