Special Session II of the 2020 Minnesota Legislature, which began Monday, opened with the same predictable sequence as did Special Session I last month.
The Senate, with a Republican majority, voted to rescind the extension of the peacetime state of emergency declared by DFL Gov. Tim Walz. The House, with a DFL majority, sustained the extension, which thus continues into next month, when this partisan dance is likely to be reenacted a third time.
In our view, the governor has used his authority with restraint, and its use has benefited Minnesotans. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been restricted and the capacity of Minnesota’s medical services has not been overwhelmed.
But the pandemic is far from over, and the state needs the capacity to react quickly should conditions deteriorate. Yes, Minnesota has seen its deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care unit use decline. But we are also seeing confirmed cases climb, and that climb is not merely the result of more testing. The percentage of tests finding infection is also rising.
And we are seeing in other states — states that have followed the apparent Republican approach of “reopen the economy and let the virus take care of itself” — that a surge in infections will be followed by surges in hospitalizations, ICU use and deaths, in that order.
Much of Minnesota has been relatively unscathed by the virus. But much of the state also has a limited medical capacity with which to respond to a sudden outbreak. The situation in Texas — where overstrained rural hospitals seek frantically to find facilities that can take severe COVID-19 cases — is evidence of what can happen when impatience decides policy.
Yes, Minnesota’s peacetime state of emergency has been in effect since March. We acknowledge the economic damage wrought by the restrictions imposed in the name of public health. We share the desire to return to the life we led before the virus hit.
But the passage of time by itself does not eradicate the problem.