Minnesota’s Border Battles: COVID-19 edition
Last year, we released a report titled ‘Minnesota’s Border Battles‘ in which we compared the economic outcomes in Minnesota counties bordering other states with the outcomes in the border counties…
The plan followed the Stay Safe guidelines in place in Minnesota by allowing each of us to individually be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol with only our families present.
In fact, members of the public had been invited:
It also contained a deflection. The statement complained that:
…those that seek to divide us used it as an opportunity to distract from the important work we have been elected to do for the people of Minnesota.
In fact, it was the seven Senators themselves who caused that division by planning a party for themselves at a time when Minnesotans are being asked to give up birthdays, christenings, funerals, Christmases etc. in the name of fighting Covid-19.
The whole episode was brought on by people who did not believe that the rules that apply to the rest of us apply to them. But it did occasion a closer examination of the contents of the Executive Orders which Gov. Walz has used to try and control Minnesotans during the Covid-19 pandemic. This examination calls even further into question just how closely Gov. Walz is following ‘the data’ and ‘the science’.
For example, Executive Order 20-103 states:
Except as specifically permitted in this Executive Order, social gatherings are prohibited.
Outdoor social gatherings involving not more than three households, up to a maximum of 15 people, are permitted as long as members of different households maintain at least six feet of separation from each other, and participants adhere to additional precautions for social gatherings on the Stay Safe Minnesota website (https://staysafemn.gov/). [Emphasis added]
So, for an outdoor gathering, people from different households have to stay six feet apart and there can only be people from three different households up to a total capacity of 15 people.
But the Order also says:
viii. Venues providing outdoor events and entertainment (whether permanent, temporary, or mobile) such as racetracks, paintball, go-karts, mini-golf, performance venues, festivals, fairs, vendor fairs, and amusement parks may be open in accordance with the applicable guidance available on the Stay Safe Minnesota website (https://staysafemn.gov/) and the following requirements:
A. All venues must ensure that physical distancing of at least six feet is maintained between participants from different households. Venues may not exceed 25 percent capacity, with a maximum of 100 people. [Emphasis added]
So, in this case, the requirement for people from different households to keep six feet apart remains but there is no longer any limit on the number of households who can turn up and the total number of people allowed quadruples to 100. Figure 1 summarizes:
Figure 1: Rules for different outdoor gatherings under Executive Order 20-103
Source: Department of Health
So, let us imagine two scenarios:
Scenario One: a family Christmas. Twenty members of five households. They decide to gather outside, each household keeping six feet apart. This is illegal under the Executive Order.
Scenario Two: an inauguration celebration for DFL Senators. One hundred members from any number of households. They decide to gather outside, each household keeping six feet apart. This is legal under the Executive Order.
What is ‘the science’ or ‘the data’ which says that the gathering in Scenario One poses an unacceptable risk of spreading Covid-19 and must be banned but that the gathering in Scenario Two poses no such risk and ought to be allowed? How is it that Covid-19 can traverse a six foot gap in my in-law’s yard but not on the steps of the State Capitol?
I do not know. Perhaps our dogged media will ask the Governor next time they get the chance.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.