Local public health state of emergency extended

The City of Minneapolis will remain under a coronavirus-related local public health state of emergency, the City Council voted Thursday.

Mayor Jacob Frey declared the local state of emergency on Monday; city laws required the City Council to approve it within 72 hours in order for it to remain in effect.

Frey has used the declaration to close adult day care centers and allow city department leaders to make purchases and contract for services more quickly to meet public health and safety needs.

He also has forbidden the city from accepting new land-use applications and has waived late fees for the renewal of food, taxi, liquor, wine, beer and catering licenses.

He also used it to close bars, restaurants, nightclubs and coffee shops a few hours before Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz did so on March 17. Walz has declared a peacetime state of emergency and has closed everything from movie theaters and gyms to hair salons, public schools and breweries. Restaurants can still offer takeout and delivery.

Frey’s measures are in effect for 30 days, provided the City Council doesn’t rescind them.

“None of the actions we’ve taken have been taken lightly,” he said. “But they are demanded in a crisis where our decisions are measured in lives saved and lost.”

Another City Council resolution passed Thursday encourages Frey to use an “equity lens” in the city’s response to the pandemic and requires him to update the council on actions taken. It also says he should focus city funds to support people who don’t have access to public hygiene and those who are “most vulnerable to economic impacts.”

“I am confident that our city will find ways to evolve our service to the public,” City Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) said.

Minnesota as of Thursday had 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that has swept the globe. State health officials are generally no longer testing people who think they may have the illness, except for ill health care workers and people who are hospitalized or live in congregate settings, like nursing homes, and are ill.

Health officials believe there is widespread community transmission in the state.

State officials have been working to expand benefits for workers who have been laid off or given fewer hours because of the pandemic. An executive order issued Wednesday ensures that people who have been laid off because of coronavirus can access benefits, and it allows them to access those benefits more quickly than usual.

In Minneapolis, the city’s Safe and Sick Time ordinance remains in effect. The ordinance requires businesses to provide employees with an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours accrual in one year. Businesses with six or more employees must pay workers when they use accrued sick leave.

Workers can still use accrued sick leave but only for shifts for which they had been scheduled, said Brian Walsh, an attorney who manages labor standards enforcement for the city’s department of civil rights. That includes shifts that are cut because of coronavirus-related reductions in operations.

Businesses that lay off employees because of coronavirus are required to reinstate their employees’ accrued sick leave if they rehire them within 90 days.

City waste, recycling and organics pickup will continue to operate as usual during the emergency. Water shutoffs are banned for 30 days, and the city has stressed that its tap water remains safe to drink and use for hygiene.

City inspections will be limited, and most public hearings for city-appointed boards and commissions have been cancelled. The City Council will continue to meet, but it has streamlined its committee structure.

More information on city services is at minneapolismn.gov/coronavirus.