Why Gov. Walz hasn't invoked shelter in place, but describes what it might look like

A empty street in a downtown.
What would typically be a busy West St. Germain Street during rush hour in downtown St. Cloud was nearly quiet on Friday. Gov. Tim Walz on Monday didn’t enact a shelter-in-place order for Minnesota, but said he’s evaluating COVID-19 modeling to see how effective such an order would be, compared to other mitigation efforts.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News file

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has ordered all nonessential businesses to close Tuesday and he’s urging residents to avoid all unnecessary trips. Evers’ move follows similar restrictions in Illinois, New York and California aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. But Minnesota’s governor said Monday he’s not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order — for now.

COVID-19 has killed five people in Wisconsin and sickened at least 400 others. However, public health officials say the scarcity of test kits means the number of cases is likely far higher. Minnesota has confirmed one death from the virus.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz discusses the crisis with Evers and other governors. Walz, who, like Evers, is a Democrat, said there’s disagreement among experts about whether such a move will help suppress the virus. He says public health officials are still trying to gauge the impact of the restrictions already in place.

“Has it worked to slow this down by shutting restaurants? Has it worked to [slow] this down by closing schools, keeping children home?” Walz asked. “And what does the modeling show if we move to a more restrictive order?”

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Walz said Minnesotans nevertheless should prepare for a shelter-in-place order.

“It looks like most states are moving in that direction. But people will be able to leave their homes. They’ll be able to go to stores. Stores will be stocked. They’ll be able to pick up prescriptions at a curbside drop or whatever, so I hope people are thinking, and we’re trying to think through all the permutations of moving to more restrictive, and what the implications of that are,” he said.

Walz on Monday spoke to reporters by phone from self-quarantine in the governor’s residence after a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19. Walz said he has no symptoms and is not being tested for the virus.

During a news conference streamed online Tuesday, Evers sat alone at a desk and said Wisconsin residents must all do their part. For most, that means staying home and having as little contact as possible with others.

“We’re all in this together,” Evers said, “and we need to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve to ensure that our doctors and nurses and health care workers have the opportunity to do their important work.”

Evers said anyone in Wisconsin not considered an essential worker should only travel when absolutely necessary, such as to get groceries, prescriptions and to visit the doctor. But he said it’s still OK to go for walks and bike rides.