While well-intentioned business groups are calling for Gov. Tim Walz to completely open Minnesota’s economy by the end of this week, a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in states that opened early should be cause for concern.
The willingness of Minnesotans to shelter in place and stay at home and wear masks has made an enormous difference in our ability to cope with a deadly virus that was not going to quietly go away. Businesses too made huge sacrifices by closing their doors for a time and just recently opening in limited ways.
We’d hate to see that success, indeed a Minnesota life-saving success, be for naught should the virus come roaring back and we find ourselves with few tools to quell it.
But businesses have made their case well in the need to balance public health with economic health.
Greater Mankato Growth is one of 50 local chambers of commerce to join the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the governor urging him to open all businesses by this Friday. The businesses argue many have endured as much pain as possible, particularly the small businesses in the restaurant, bar and hospitality industry.
The state’s own statistics shows a 73 percent employment decline in full-service restaurants and a 61 percent decline in arts, recreation and entertainment businesses in April compared to last April.
The group points to other states such as Indiana, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin that have opened up more capacity earlier than Minnesota.
But it also appears cases of COVID-19 have spiked alarmingly in states that were some of the first to reopen their economies. Cases have risen in nearly half of all the states recently, according to The Associated Press. The stock market lost 1,800 points on Thursday alone due to the worry that the virus will be back to wreak a second round of havoc on the economy.
In Arizona, hospitals are expecting the worst. Texas has the most cases of COVID hospitalized since the initial onslaught. North Carolina’s governor is reconsidering opening the schools.
Experts say at least some of the increase is due to the relaxing of social distancing in those states, some is due to more testing and some is due to hotspot outbreaks like those in Montgomery, Alabama.
The AP analysis found that the seven-day rolling averages of new cases in 20 states were higher recently than in the previous seven days. Arizona’s rolling average shot up to 1,000 new cases per day, compared to 400 new cases per day previously. Experts attribute almost all of the increase to a relaxing of social distancing. Arizona’s hospitals are at 83 percent capacity, a level that soon may require canceling elective surgeries.
So the rebound of COVID-19 cases in certain states is real.
The Minnesota chambers also argue Minnesota businesses are practicing the safety and public health protocols recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. A video shows Mankato business people talking about how they are keeping employees and customers safe and how much economic pain they’ve incurred.
There’s a certain amount of private risk people and business should be able to take with decisions about their own health. But private risk becomes a problem when it exposes others to a public risk that could lead to taxing public resources, such as hospital ICU beds.
If there’s a way to preserve and maintain the success we’ve had in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota and allow our businesses to regain some of their losses, we’re all in favor of that.
Fully opening the economy doesn’t appear to be paying off in Arizona, Texas, Georgia or other states that opened early and ignored social distancing.
Last week’s Wall Street debacle should be a warning sign to move cautiously on reopening based upon the data and a reasonable amount of personal risk.