Minnesota calls on Trump, Biden to follow virus guidelines
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urged the campaigns of President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Tuesday to abide by the state’s guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus when the candidates visit Minnesota on Friday.
“Partner with us in the fight against COVID-19,” the Democratic governor said in a letter to both campaigns.
Trump may be running as the “law and order” candidate, but that hasn’t stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s guidelines as he holds rallies in battleground states. Trump has an airport rally scheduled for Friday in the north-central Minnesota city of Bemidji. Biden’s campaign has not yet announced a city or venue for his visit.
Walz said Minnesota requires face masks inside public places and strongly encourages them for outdoor gatherings.
The governor did not say in his letter how state and local officials will respond if either campaign fails to follow the guidelines for their events. Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said they hope to hear back from the campaigns soon, and that they’ll comply voluntarily instead of forcing the state to enforce its guidelines.
“We’re hoping they don’t put us in a position where they have to do that, but that would be up to local regulatory agencies and local law enforcement,” Tschann said.
While an executive order that Walz signed in June contains an exemption for federal officials, Tschann said it doesn’t apply to the president in this context because he’s coming for a campaign rally and not acting in his official capacity. But even if that exception did apply, he said, it would apply only to federal officials, and not attendees.
“To comply with the relevant guidelines, your events generally must not exceed 25% capacity, not to exceed 250 people. You may be able to increase total attendance if you choose a venue with multiple event spaces with separate capacity limits, as long as you limit each separate space to the lesser of 250 people or 25% capacity. Attendees must maintain social distancing of at least six feet at all times, including when entering and exiting the event,” the governor said in his letter.
Walz said the guidelines are consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx. He noted that Birx on her recent visit to Minnesota praised the state’s mitigation efforts and stressed the importance of face coverings, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
“COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to Minnesota. Over 1,900 Minnesotans have died from the virus, including more than 200 in the past month. Please demonstrate that you value Minnesota by protecting the health of our communities. Join us in our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep our businesses open, and get back to the activities we love,” he concluded.