Governor Walz’ stay-at-home order is not a recommendation, but a mandatory order, say Cook County officials, who offer clarification as to how the order applies to county residents and others in the following press release.
By: Molly Hicken, Cook County Attorney
Beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 27, all those living in Minnesota are ordered by the governor to “stay at home.” The Executive Order signed March 25 is justified by Governor Walz’s emergency powers under the COVID-19 state of emergency and is consistent with federal guidelines limiting gatherings of more than 10 people. “Limiting activities to only those which are most essential and practicing social distancing at all times are vital tools required to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota and Nationwide,” the Order asserts. It is important to understand that Executive Order 20-20, the “Stay at Home” order, is mandatory. This is unlike the “Travel Advisory” issued by the Cook County Board of Commissioners which remains in place as a recommendation. There are also important distinctions to make between Governor Walz’s “Stay at Home Order” and a “Shelter in Place” directive.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners on last Tuesday voted to issue a “travel advisory” for the purpose of discouraging travel into the county during a period when the number of positive tests for COVID-19 increases daily and community transmission of the novel coronavirus is occurring. Because we have a larger than average population of senior citizens especially vulnerable to the illness and extremely limited medical facilities, second-home owners and would-be travelers were requested to stay home. The advisory also requests that, if an individual has recently arrived in Cook County or decides to come despite the advisory, they self-quarantine for a 14 day period.
People are asked to voluntarily comply with the County’s travel advisory, while the governor’s Executive Order directing people to stay at home is backed by the force of law. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is authorized to enforce Governor Walz’s executive orders issued during the emergency and is prepared to respond to calls for service related to reported violations of “Stay at Home.” While initially, law enforcement’s primary role may be educating the public and asking for voluntary compliance, violators may be charged by complaint or citation with a misdemeanor offense.
The Stay at Home Executive Order is not a “Shelter in Place” order, however. “Shelter in Place” is a directive sometimes issued by responders to an emergency which means individuals must get inside, find a safe spot, and stay put until officials say that it is safe to leave. The community need not fear that they are subject to a traffic stop just for driving down Highway 61 during the period that Stay at Home is in effect. While the travel restrictions in the governor’s order are a dramatic step, there are many exemptions for necessary travel and essential work.
Residents whose homes are unsafe may relocate to ensure safety (a victim of domestic violence may leave to find safety). Travel for health and safety activities, to gather necessary supplies and services (including grocery shopping), and related to care of others (such as transporting a family member for a medical appointment or transporting children to comply with a parenting time schedule) are all allowed. Even leaving the house for outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, biking, driving for pleasure, hunting, or fishing is okay under the Order so long as people stay at least 6 feet apart. A special exemption exists for activities by tribal members within the boundaries of their tribal reservations, and tribal members exercising federal treaty rights within ceded territory.
“All workers who can work from home must do so,” Walz’s executive order directs. The general rule is that residents may not leave the home for work. Those workers in a long list of “Critical Sectors” of the workforce, however, are exempted from the travel restriction if the type of work they are doing cannot possibly be done by telework. Critical Sectors include law enforcement, healthcare, and public health, of course, but also: victim advocacy, certain financial services, tribal officers and workers deemed essential by the relevant Tribal government, faith leaders and workers, educators, public works, construction and critical trades, child care providers, laundry, cleaning services, and those working at hotels, residential facilities and shelters. The list goes on. Further detail on exemptions to the stay at home order may be found in the Executive Order, available on the governor’s website: https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp.
Cook County’s priority is keeping its residents safe and healthy. In these times, we ask that you consider not just your own health, but the health of your community, each time you step outside your door.
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