At The Table – December 18, 2020

December 17  

Governor Walz’ Latest Executive Order 

During a press conference on December 18, Governor Tim Walz updated COVID-19 restrictions through Executive Order 20-103. Key points include:  

  • Elementary School Reopening 
    • On January 18, 2020, all Minnesota elementary schools will be allowed to operate in-person classes, so long as they have the appropriate strategies and safety measures in place. 
  • Social Gatherings and Fitness Centers 
    • Starting December 19, Minnesotans will be allowed gather indoors with one other household up to 10 people and up to two households outside. Masks and social distancing are still recommended. 
    • Gyms and fitness centers may reopen on January 4, 2021 at 25% capacity or 100 people max. Masks must be work at all time with 12 feet of distance between individuals. 
    • Youth sports teams will also be allowed to resume practice beginning January 4. 
  • Bars, Restaurants, and Venues 
    • Entertainment venues, event spaces, and similar establishments must remain closed until January 11.  
    • Indoor service for bars, restaurants, and breweries will also remain closed until January 11; however, they may open for outdoor service of 50% capacity or 100 people max. 
    • Current rules for weddings, funerals, and similar ceremonies will remain in place, but receptions around these events must be postponed or cancelled.  
    • Indoor holiday gatherings with one other household are permitted.  

Medical Alley Association board member Dr. Ken Holmen, President and CEO of CentraCare, joined Governor Walz at the press conference. Speaking on the importance of relentless commitment to our communities, Holmen urged Minnesotans to stay diligent in wearing masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Hope has certainly arrived with the vaccines, but the next six months are crucial as we collectively work towards herd immunity through vaccinations.  

To see Dr. Holmen’s full remarks, click here

Minnesota Budget Forecast 

In what was widely anticipated to be a bleak report, the November Budget and Economic Forecast proved far more positive. Minnesota, no longer projecting a 2020 deficit, now shows a $636M budget surplus.  

This new forecast returns nearly half the current biennium’s revenue that was taken out of the May projection. However, a $1.3B shortfall is still on the horizon for FY 2022-23. 

At the press conferences following the announcement, Governor Walz, DFL leadership, and GOP leadership all agreed this is good news, but Minnesota still has a long way to go before regaining its pre-COVID economic strength. 

In response to the forecast, DFL leadership stressed that the economic effects of the pandemic have not been felt equally among Minnesotans. Leaders are calling for prioritization of those in financial distress in the next round of relief. That is an enormous amount of people, and they fully admit the state can only provide so much assistance. While reserve funds are available, leaders are cautious to drain funds entirely, as this is still a novel pandemic and the future remains uncertain. Minnesota must have a budget that is structurally balanced, setting Minnesotans up for long-term success; therefore, DFL leaders called on Congress to act and scale up support. 

GOP leadership saw this improved budget forecast as an opportunity to provide economic relief to Minnesotans and to small businesses. Leaders stressed the importance of listening to small business owners and using their input to guide the relief structure. In response to the DFL claim that Republican senators were not engaging on relief package discussion, GOP leaders said those remarks were unfounded and that the Senate GOP had been engaged from the beginning. They also set the record straight on rumors that the GOP wanted to either cut programs or raise taxes, with neither being the case. Instead, the GOP wants to grow the economy out of this economic downturn by making Minnesota as business-friendly as possible.  

For details on the COVID-19 Relief Package passed during Minnesota’s 7th Special Session, click here.

Senate and House Committee Leadership – 2021-22 

The full roster of Minnesota House and Senate committee chairs have been announced, and we are eager to share key insights on their priorities, history with Medical Alley Association (MAA), and how we plan to work with them in the new year. 

Senate Committees 

Health & Human Services Finance & Policy – Sen. Benson 

Sen. Benson has been a strong supporter of MAA from the start. She has deep knowledge of health policy from her experience as the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Chair. Her understanding of complex policy problems and our shared priority of advancing telehealth innovations make her a key ally. 

Jobs Finance & Policy – Sen. Pratt 

As strong advocates for the Angel Tax Credit and job growth, the Jobs Finance & Policy committee will have our attention this legislative session. Attracting and retaining top talent in our region is a cornerstone initiative for MAA, and we are eager to work with Sen. Pratt on bettering our workforce for the future.   

Taxes – Sen. Nelson  

We have another MAA champion in Sen. Nelson. She understands how important the Angel Tax Credit is in creating a business-friendly environment for our state, which is a top priority for us. The Mayo Clinic is in her district, giving her key insight into what it’s like representing a prestigious hospital system. 

House Committees 

Workforce and Business Development Finance & Policy – Rep. Noor  

Talent continues to be a top priority for our members —how we can both attract and retain top talent in Minnesota. Seeing the House put job creation at the forefront is encouraging. We will especially advocate for job creation in biotech as those are high-paying jobs in a growing field.  

Behavorial Health Policy Division – Rep. Fischer 

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the mental health crisis in our country. Here in Minnesota, we have many digital and behavioral health companies working to help address that crisis. We look forward to bringing those companies to the forefront of conversations in Rep. Fischer’s committee and help them drive further innovations.  

Preventative Health Policy Division – Rep. Freiberg  

We are excited to see the House prioritize addressing social determinants of health, as it is a subject at the forefront for many of our members, and an absolute necessity in transforming healthcare.  

Minnesota Vaccine Distribution Plan 

In a press conference on December 8, Governor Walz shared initial plans to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine across the state. 

While it is likely that the state’s distribution plan will change, Walz said that Minnesota is currently slotted to receive 183,000 vaccines over the next three weeks. These will be both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Note that each vaccine comes in two doses, so the total number of vaccines reflects a pair of doses. 

Distribution has been broken down into three priority groups: 

  • 1a. Front-line healthcare workers and long-term care residences 
  • 1b. Essential workers (parameters are TBD) 
  • 1c. Adults with high-risk medical conditions and people aged 65+ 

It will take months to vaccinate each priority group, which places broad vaccine distribution into sometime next summer. Walz said a second priority distribution breakdown is being discussed and will be shared once finalized.  

In a follow-up press conference, Gov. Walz joined House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, marking the group’s first joint press conference since March 10. Each leader echoed the necessity for unity and a desire to cast aside politicization of the pandemic. With this first shipment of vaccines, Minnesota’s leaders hope that the state will turn a corner on the road to recovery. 

At the outset of the pandemic, our members took on a leadership role to fight the pandemic. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, we will continue to use the strength and expertise of our members to partner with the state to navigate these next steps. It is important Minnesotans feel safe to take the vaccine, so our association will be partnering with the administration to educate our population.  

The Medical Alley Association will continue to be a resource for the Governor, connecting his administration with the expertise of our members for vaccine distribution, education, and continuing to combat COVID-19. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing further information on how MAA is partnering with the administration to educate Minnesotans about the vaccine. 

Medical Alley Offers Expertise to Biden Administration 

In a letter to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, Medical Alley Association President Shaye Mandle offered the expertise and insight of the Medical Alley community to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. MAA’s broad and diverse membership make the association uniquely positioned to help the new administration in its work to transform healthcare and the public policies that drive it. 

Click here to read the full letter. 

In 2021, our association will be working to elevate the profile of Medical Alley in Washington, D.C. There will be many opportunities for our members to help develop solutions for our nation’s healthcare challenges, so we want to hear what you are doing. To share your ideas or get plugged in to our federal efforts, please email our Policy and Advocacy Manager Gabriela Spence at [email protected]

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