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Peggy Bennett: Stay-at-home order ending, but more work to be done

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

 

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced that his stay-at-home order will be lifted on Monday, and we have now moved to his “Stay Safe Minnesota” order. This means more, but not all, businesses will begin slowly and safely returning to work. Most notably, restaurants, bars, hair salons, churches and others will remain closed. The governor did suggest having more guidance for these businesses on June 1.

Folks, our businesses, churches and local government centers have been ready for weeks with their own “stay safe” plans that would protect their employees and customers with proper social distancing guidelines and more. I know that because I have been talking with and working with many of our local businesses.

Why has the governor waited so long to begin opening these businesses and now still left more in the lurch closed?  These policies do not make sense!

I went along with Governor Walz’s plans for the first 30 days of his peacetime emergency order. He made choices that needed to be made then. We did not know much about this virus at that time, and we needed time to get our hospitals prepared. However, by mid-April, I lost faith in his plans.

By Easter, it was clear that the great majority of Minnesota deaths were taking place in long-term care and assisted living facilities — more than 80%. At that time, our governor (who had — and still has — total control of our state) should have immediately pivoted his strategies and targeted a good chunk of our state resources and efforts to protect these care facilities like a number of other state governors were doing.

At the same time, healthy Minnesotans should have been allowed to go back to work with proper safety protocols, while continuing to retain measures to help those with preexisting conditions who were unable to go back to work.

However, instead of pivoting our strategies to protect the facilities where we knew most Minnesota deaths were taking place, the governor chose to ratchet down even harder with the same old tactics of locking down the entire state for another whole month. Why?

In addition, the governor has put himself in a spot where he alone has been and continues to be picking winners and losers, choosing who can earn a living and who cannot, and selecting what activities we may do and what we may not.

Does it make sense that you cannot find a parking spot at Walmart while Leuthholds clothing store remains shuttered?

Does it make sense that getting an abortion is deemed essential while getting a mastectomy is not?

Does it make sense that you can get curbside beer, but that you can’t buy a beer at a golf course?

Does it make sense to tell every high school in Minnesota they cannot hold a high school graduation ceremony — regardless of their senior class size -— but it’s OK for 100 people to stand elbow to elbow in line at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store waiting to get in and buy a Kit-Kat?

These are the types of winner and loser choices that have left many Minnesotans shaking their heads.

I believe we should trust the people of Minnesota to do the right thing instead of micromanaging our state down to the glass of beer at our local golf course. I believe we should trust our local hospitals to manage their own surgical schedules instead of forcing them down to running at 20% capacity. I believe we should always err on the side of freedom and empowering people to do what is right.

We are a country based on freedoms. If people are at-risk or are concerned about catching COVID-19, they should make the choice to avoid contact as much as possible and should not be criticized or ridiculed for their choice. But if you have healthy individuals who want to use common sense and want to reclaim a sense of normalcy in their lives, they also should be allowed to do so.

I want to thank everyone who reached out to me, to any state lawmaker or to the governor to urge a safe and responsible return to some normalcy in our state. Without your passion and input, I am convinced nothing would have changed.

Let’s continue to fight together for common sense!

State Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, represents Minnesota House District 27A, which includes almost all of Freeborn County, along with parts of Faribault, Mower, Steele and Dodge counties. She can be reached by phone at 651-296-8216 or by email at rep. peggy.bennett@house.mn.