5-27-2020 COVID-19 Update from MN Governor Walz and MDH
MN Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update for 5-27-2020
On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Governor Tim Walz and other state officials participated in the daily COVID-19 response briefing. Much of the news conference also centered around the death of George Floyd.
This is a summary of that news conference.
Update from Governor Walz:
- I was shocked and horrified by the video of George Floyd’s death.
- It’s very clear to anyone that what happened to George Floyd is wrong. The lack of humanity in the video made me physically ill, and even more difficult to understand
- My heart aches for Mr. Floyd’s family and friends
- I know our communities are hurting, especially our black community
- I was glad to see the Minneapolis Police Department took quick action and removed the officers involved from their positions but it’s not the end of the story as we seek justice for George Floyd
- I’ve been in contact with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and this morning I spoke with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, both have promised “swift action” once the facts of the investigation come in. And I will work with them to make sure that’s exactly what happens.
- Our community has a right to expect an independent, thorough, and prompt investigation by the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) who will present its findings without recommendation to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Attorney Mike Freeman said his team will review the findings and determine how to proceed in an expeditious manner.
- I also look forward to the findings of a federal civil rights investigation that will now be conducted by the FBI.
- We all know that these types of incidents disproportionately affect our black and brown community members. I also strongly support the rights for those to peacefully protest. It’s how people express their pain, process tragedy and work to create change.
- I was saddened to see that some of the protesters were in harm’s way last night. And I just want to encourage everyone to be safe, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank the protesters for their commitment to safely protest during this pandemic.
- To those of you who are in pain, angry and afraid… I not only see you, I hear you and stand with you. We will get answers and we will seek justice.
- George Floyd didn’t deserve to die, but he does deserve justice
Update from Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan:
- My deepest sympathies for all of George Floyd’s family and friends. I’m so deeply sorry for your loss.
- My heart breaks for Minneapolis, for St. Louis Park (where George Floyd called “home”) and for Minnesota.
- I’m also outraged that Minnesotans, especially black Minnesotans and black Americans, are experiencing the collective trauma of a black man dying at the hands of law enforcement once again. George Floyd should be alive today.
- We are pursuing answers through state and federal investigations, but one thing is very clear to me: The complete lack of humanity in the video of George’s death is horrifying. We will get answers, and we will seek justice.
- It goes without saying that no one should be treated differently by law enforcement due to the color of their skin and no one should live in fear of law enforcement because of the color of their skin.
- The grief in this moment is unbearable. But in this moment of pandemic, it’s more than that. Because the truth is that the same underlying issues of systematic racism that led to the death of George Floyd are the same underlying issues that have led to communities of color — especially our black community — to be affected more by COVID-19 than the rest of the state.
- We have to continue to protect each other and ensure that all Minnesotans, particularly in communities of color and indigenous communities, are healthy and safe
- During times of grief and anger, our instinct is to run to each other, to come together, and to hold one another. But the way that we love our communities most fully is to protect one another.
- Last night we saw those choose to express their grief and their anger through protests wearing masks. Distancing themselves from each other as best they could.
- I thank the demonstrators for their commitment to safely protest during the pandemic at a time when nothing feels normal.
- Some day, when it’s safe, we will all have the option of going back to “normal. But we must not let that happen. “Normal” means that black and brown bodies are not safe. “Normal” was not working for us. We cannot get back to normal. We must get back to “better.”
- The governor and I will continue to fight for answers and for justice for George Floyd, his family and for Minnesota.
Update from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison:
- George Floyd was an important person to many. The fact that he’s gone and the way that he was taken is deeply tragic on multiple levels.
- The state and federal investigations have started. If you have information, we need you to come forward and share it.
- It’s important that the investigation is thorough, fair and just.
- My office will be a force for transparency, accountability and justice. We will call it out when we see otherwise, and we will foster it at every opportunity we get.
- This means that at this point, this investigation must proceed with a degree of objectivity. We’re not gonna pre-judge the facts, though the video is so clear before our eyes. Why? Because, at the end of this process, we want nobody to be able to question the process. And whatever the consequences may be, they will be just, they will be fair, and they will be what the law requires.
- It is important to understand that this tragic event that took the life of George Floyd is a point in time and an incident involving a person. But the reason there’s so much outrage connected to it is because it’s part of a larger pattern. We can talk about Jamar Clark or Philando Castile, but we can go all the way back to Rodney King.
- Bad housing, unemployment and a whole range of other social problems really built the tension, but it was the incidents that occurred between the police and the community that sparked it and caused tremendous problems.
- What we’re dealing with is not an isolated case. We’re dealing with a systemic problem.
- The investigation and the prosecution, if that happens, and the ultimate consequences, are being handled — I’m confident they’re being handled — competently. But that doesn’t end it. The discharge of the officers doesn’t end it. The criminal process that’s begun doesn’t end it. The civil rights process doesn’t end it. We’ve got to have permanent, deep, systemic change.
- Myself and Commissioner Harrington led an effort, the working group, police-involved deadly force encounters, which we issued in February of 2020. This report lays out a series of recommendations that we arrived at with our group, which included law enforcement, community, civil rights, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, many people throughout the state.
- I think it’s a good time for us to understand that this was always a working report, was always a report designed to solve a systemic problem. And I urge us all to reflect on the recommendations in this report.
- The recommendations in this report are critical. I urge people to reflect and look on this so that we can begin to really make the changes that this state deserves.
- For people who demonstrate, please use proper protocols for safety. We are still in the middle of a pandemic.
Update from Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington:
- The BCA, as the state investigative agency, moved quickly to take over the George Floyd crime scene and begin the criminal investigation.
- As part of that process, the BCA reached out to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, they began the process of gathering information, working with the medical examiner, working with the Minneapolis Police Department. And in conversations with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, it was decided that a civil rights violation appeared to be happening on the video that surfaced.
- Chief Arradondo contacted the FBI, and the special agent in charge agreed to take on the case as a civil rights, or a color of law, investigation.
- We will make sure that this is not an investigation that lags
- This will not be an investigation where we cut any corners
- When we go to trial. If we go to trial. When we present this case to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for prosecution, and when the FBI presents its case to the U.S. Attorney for prosecution, that all of the facts necessary for a charge will be there.
- What we need from the public is witnesses
- To help expedite this investigation, please contact the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
- If you have video, please send it along.
- We have to wait for the autopsy results from the Medical Examiner’s Office.
- You can expect to see progress made regularly on this case.
- There is so much pain in our community. The video from last night is just one example of the pain and trauma being expressed.
- I will encourage all of us, state, county and local levels to think about how do we help our communities heal? How do we empower those in the community that can bring us together? How do we patch over the wounds that George Floyd’s passing has opened?
More from Governor Walz:
- I too share that urge or just a primal scream of when you watch humanity get erased in front of you. It is almost inexplicable how you respond.
- I want to be incredibly careful that anything I say from this office does not jeopardize a fair journey toward justice. So while my personal emotions are real and I’ll validate them. I also trust that our system of justice is predicated on exactly that: a fairness for everybody involved, a true look at all of the facts involved, and then an expectation that those facts will be acted upon to provide justice for everyone involved.
- The pace of COVID-19 deaths is relatively stable in Minnesota. What we’re finding is a better understanding of COVID and the spread in our communities.
- The National Guard tested 10,000 people at six locations over the weekend. There were no barriers associated with this testing. We’re going to continue to offer those testing opportunities. We’re going to continue to target the areas from congregate care living facilities to communities that are under-served, because once again, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color, and the black community is showing up in that — both from a health perspective and from an economic perspective. We’re also seeing across the country that an under-testing in those communities is leading to a lack of in how it’s spreading. We can’t allow it to happen in Minnesota.
- Signed Executive Order that outlines Phase 2 of the Stay Safe Minnesota plan — a cautious, strategic turn of the dial, outdoor dining at restaurants and bars will start June 1, salons and barber shops opening, camp grounds opening, etc.
- We have two areas of the state where we’re “in the yellow” in terms of ICU bed capacity
- The peak is still a ways off, but there is a degree of uncertainty that comes with that prediction
- Wearing masks, staying home if you’re sick will have an impact
Update from Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- The conditions in our community that put some people at greater harm than others is one of the challenges we face together
- That does show up in our data about who’s getting exposed to COVID, who’s getting seriously ill, and who’s getting hospitalized
- Nationally the lack of proportionate testing in communities at greatest risk is clouding our picture nationally of where the risks are and where the interventions need to be concentrated
- We are now at over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States and 1.7 million cases
- Globally 5.6 million cases and 350,000 deaths
- In Minnesota, there are now 22,464 positive cases of COVID-19
- An additional 33 deaths among Minnesotans (tied for the daily high total of deaths), bringing the overall total to 932.
- One person who died was in their 30s who had no known underlying health conditions
- 598 people in the hospital, 268 in ICU (the highest daily total to date)
- All of the data indicators are mixed. We see relatively stability in the growth pattern, but we do see more accelerating and concerning signs, such as the growth in ICU hospitalizations
Additional notes from the news conference:
- The governor will not express his opinion as to whether the officer involved in the death of George Floyd should be charged so as to not “taint or influence how this comes out, cause our justice system is pretty clear.” Attorney General Ellison said emotions are running high, but proper procedures will be followed.
- Governor Walz said he protects people’s right to protest. He encourages people to protest while wearing a mask and being socially distant. “We will do everything we can to keep things as safe as possible.”
- Ellison said he urges law enforcement to exercise restraint, despite the fact that protesters are throwing rocks. He also encourages protesters to conduct themselves in a way that focuses the attention on Mr. Floyd.
- Malcolm said protesters should be careful because of the risk of COVID-19 community spread.
- Governor Walz was asked whether he can amend his order and allow restaurants to have indoor dining. He reiterates that lingering in a place for a long time, indoors, is not the safest thing in the world. He said that if it starts to rain while people are outside eating, people can make common sense decisions and shelter inside.
- Walz said he is in close talks with the hospitality industry
- Walz said he did not change any details in his executive order on restaurants reopening from his initial announcement last week.
- There is no timeline on when the next phase (such as dining at restaurants indoors) would be announced.
- The governor was asked whether professional sports would return this summer. He said he spoke to the Commissioner of Baseball, and he thinks it would be possible for sports to return without spectators. However, he’s concerned about baseball’s labor relations situation. As for the NHL choosing Minnesota as a possible host site to conduct the playoffs, he said “we certainly want to be a part of that and work with them.” He said they would have to figure out how the teams would live together, what it would look like to put two teams in a stadium, what the broadcast would look like (likely done remotely). “I think there’s potential there that we can do that,” Walz said.
- Commissioner John Harrington says he has faith that the BCA will conduct a fair investigation on George Floyd’s death.
- Ellison says he has trust that FBI will conduct a fair investigation, but if he sees a lack of fairness, he will raise those issues. “Despite some of the national prevailing winds,” says Ellison, “we have reason to trust that things will be done in a fair, upright way.”
- The MDH is awaiting results on the asymptomatic testing that was conducted over the weekend. They should have data to share next week.
- The possible release of body cam footage in the George Floyd death will take weeks.
- Malcolm said there are dozens of long-term care facilities that will receive testing in the coming weeks. Forty facilities have already been tested.
- Ellison says the George Floyd case shows that we have to “literally shift policing.” The way we do policing has to move from one century to where we are now.