ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - A 100-page federal government plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic was recently delivered to federal government policymakers, warning the COVID-19 crisis in the United States could last 18 months or longer.
The U.S. could see “multiple waves” of COVID-19, straining the health care system and possibly causing widespread shortages of key goods, according to a report on the plan from The New York Times.
This long-term mindset was echoed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health in separate briefings Wednesday.
“We know this is not going to be a blizzard, but a winter,” Gov. Walz said. “It’s going to be a little longer than what folks in the beginning were thinking."
"To those who think, 'oh, it’s not a big deal'…this is unprecedented,” MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said. “They should take this social distancing message very seriously.”
Social distancing has been atop the list of ways Americans can prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That’s why Gov. Walz ordered a statewide closing of schools and the closing of bars and restaurants to dine-in customers through March 27. Malls, theaters, museums and zoos have also been closed.
“We need to stop congregating,” Walz said.
How long does social distancing need to last in Minnesota?
"None of us at the Health Department have suggested community mitigation is for the short term," Ehresmann told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
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Gov. Walz is urging Minnesotans to post on social media any stories of people helping others during the coronavirus outbreak.
"We're doing well," Walz said. "We need to hunker down, this is going to be a little longer haul."
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DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT
The federal pandemic plan suggested President Trump consider invoking the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law, as a means of making sure the nation has the medical supplies it would need in such a prolonged crisis. The president invoked the act Wednesday during a White House news briefing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force.
SOCIAL DISTANCING RECOMMENDATIONS AND ORDERS
CDC recommends postponing and canceling until further notice:
- Events where 50 people or more would gather, including but not limited to: Concerts. Conferences. Professional, college, and school performances or sporting events. Festivals. Parades. Weddings. Other types of assemblies.
- Professional, college, and school performances or sporting events.
- Other types of assemblies.
- Smaller events (fewer than 50 people) that are held in crowded auditoriums, rooms, or other venues that do not allow social distancing of 6 feet per person.
- Events with more than 10 people where the majority of participants are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including gatherings such as those at: Retirement facilities. Assisted living facilities. Developmental homes. Support groups for people with health conditions.
- Retirement facilities.
- Assisted living facilities.
- Developmental homes.
- Support groups for people with health conditions.
- Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
By order of the governor, beginning March 17 at 5 p.m., and continuing until March 27 at 5 p.m., the following places of public accommodation are closed to members of the public:
- Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption, excluding institutional or in-house food cafeterias that serve residents, employees, and clients of businesses, child care facilities, hospitals, and longterm care facilities.
- Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption
- Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on-premises consumption.
- Theaters, cinemas, indoor and outdoor performance venues, and museums.
- Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, and spas.
- Amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.
- Country clubs, golf clubs, boating or yacht clubs, sports or athletic clubs, and dining clubs.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
The Minnesota Department of Health stressed the importance of all Minnesotans continuing to do those things that can limit the spread of the coronavirus:
- Stay home and away from others if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face throughout the day