Peterson Opinion: Regional Pandemic Restrictions Would Ease Unequal Hardships

May 28, 2020
Press Release

While Minnesotans across the state have felt the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, our students, small businesses, hospitals, long-term care facilities and others have carried much of the weight of this pandemic. We all feel a responsibility to keep our vulnerable populations safe and we think about how our local hospitals will be able to handle any potential increase in cases. At the same time, we worry about the future of those hospitals, along with small businesses and our favorite eating and drinking establishments that may not survive the current restrictions in place.

 

The Governor is facing a lot of criticism over his recent decisions on how and when to reopen the state. While I don’t envy him having to make these decisions, I do think that his one-size-fits-all approach in a state that is as large and geographically diverse as Minnesota is creating unequal hardships for our rural communities.   In my district, there are no ‘non-essential’ jobs and we can’t afford to sacrifice any more of our business and incomes based on infection rates from metropolitan areas. 

 

There are large areas in my district with very few reported cases -- counties that can be managed with testing and commonsense safety measures. Similarly, we also share borders with North Dakota and South Dakota, which have far fewer restrictions. As a result, communities across the Seventh District are now in the unenviable position of being told to delay the start of their recovery while watching their business literally being driven across the border. 

 

While I don’t think our state should rapidly re-open, I do think restrictions can be adjusted regionally -- based on the rate of infections.  This would allow businesses and churches to implement simple safety measures that better fit the risk for their situation. 

 

The White House strategy for reopening the economy is largely based on politics, not science and that’s not right either.  But let’s be honest, it’s not the imposing or lifting of restrictions by the state that will continue to slow the virus’s sustained spread, it’s whether people respond responsibly. I believe rural Minnesotans can do that.

 

We can ease restrictions while maintaining simple safety measures, making common sense steps to protect both our community and its commerce. I trust business owners across this district to take every reasonable precaution to make employees and customers feel safe.  Their economic livelihood depends on it. 

 

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