Earlier this week, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature announced that if voters give them the majority in House and Senate this coming year, they will undo all the COVID-19 emergency orders that Gov. Tim Walz has issued since last March, and trust the people to do what is right to keep themselves safe and healthy. At a time when the state is seeing record high increases in COVID-19 cases, this promise sounds rather dubious.
We know there are good, responsible business owners, restaurateurs and saloonkeepers in this state. But while they may know a lot about their business, are they really up on epidemiology? Can we really expect them to limit their occupancy, insist their customers maintain social distancing and all wear masks, when their customers are chafing to turn the clock back to pre-COVID-19 times?
Legislators have been pointing to the Dakotas and Wisconsin, where the state has been much more hands-off, as examples that state measures are not needed. Those states are now leading the Midwest surge of cases.
We share legislators’ concern for the state of the economy, and for those who have been hardest hit, who have been laid off, who have lost business revenue, to the point where some have simply shut down for good. But this laissez faire attitude toward public health policy would seem to lead toward more illness, suffering and death.