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As COVID wave continues, Minnesota Gov. Walz says he has no plans to declare emergency

Hospitalizations in Minnesota remain at their highest since December of last year, reaching 1,382, while test positivity rates and seven-day rolling average cases remained among the highest in the U.S. at 70.9 per 100,000 people.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is reflected in a pillar while Gov. Tim Walz speaks during a press conference highlighting the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for children Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist
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ST. PAUL — New cases, positive test rates, deaths and hospitalizations for COVID-19 remained high in Minnesota Wednesday, Nov. 17, amid a steadily worsening wave of infections in the state.

Hospitalizations remain at their highest since December of last year, reaching 1,382, while test positivity rates and seven-day rolling average cases remained among the highest in the U.S. at 70.9 per 100,000 people.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday said he had no plan to reinstate a state of emergency in Minnesota to combat COVID-19 as the state continued to rank among the top in the country for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The governor made the comments from Helsinki, Finland, on a call with reporters. Walz is on a trade mission to Finland and the United Kingdom this week.

He said the emergency declaration that offers him additional powers to act without the approval of the Legislature would be less helpful to the state now that systems were in place to vaccinate people against the illness and test for COVID-19.


“It’s just not that effective a tool right now to use that,” Walz said, noting that the declaration could also worsen tensions between the DFL governor and the GOP-led Senate. “Just get vaccinated, that’s the big thing.”

While the state of emergency had been the right move early in the pandemic to scale up testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines, it was no longer needed to prevent COVID-19 deaths, Walz said. And if he declared it, more Minnesotans could choose not to follow state masking requirements or shutdowns.

Walz said it was “demonstrably false” that reinstating his emergency powers would bring down COVID-19 cases in the state and said he needed the help of lawmakers to approve flexibility and funding for hospitals that were strained from a tide of COVID-19 cases.

To date, Walz and leaders in the divided Legislature have been unable to compromise on the terms that would allow them to return to St. Paul for a special legislative session to take up hero pay for front-line workers, hospital relief measures and support payments for farmers.

In a Wednesday statement, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said Senate Republicans are open to a special session.

“We remain ready to come back for a special session to address frontline worker bonus pay, drought relief, and immediate COVID needs," Miller said. "The governor is the only person who can call a special session and we look forward to continuing discussions with the governor when he gets back from his trade mission.”

The governor on Wednesday said his administration had done more to curb the pandemic than the Senate Republicans had done during the course of the pandemic. And, again, he refused to call back lawmakers if the threat of losing Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm remained on the table.

Senate Republicans have said they have a right to confirm or terminate state commissioners.


“I can’t afford to lose someone at the department of health who is getting these vaccines out and making a difference,” Walz said.

Earlier in the day, Walz and the department of health announced that two federal emergency staffing teams would be deployed to Minnesota to relieve medical staff at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital. They are set to begin treating patients next week.

Malcolm said additional hospitals had requested relief staffing but the federal government had a limited number to send out. The state is also set to open a third alternative care site at Cerenity Senior Care-Marian of St. Paul beginning Monday, Nov. 22.

The decompression site will take patients transferred out of hospital settings that aren’t yet ready to return home. The center will be able to accept 27 patients at a time, primarily from Twin Cities area hospitals. Alternative care sites have also opened in Brainerd and Shakopee.

Walz said the state was considering additional sites, too, if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to grow in Minnesota.

Following are the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Wednesday, Nov. 17. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 3,457


Hospitalizations, deaths




  • TOTAL DEATHS: 9,093


  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 3,562,569 or 68.4% of population ages 5 and older

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 doses): 3,331,979 or 63.9% of population ages 5 and older

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Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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