By Steve Karnowski, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted his support Friday for a protest outside Gov. Tim Walz’s official residence in St. Paul against Minnesota’s continued stay-at-home order.
Grassroots Trump supporters organized the protest under the theme “Liberate Minnesota.” It was one of several taking place across the country this week as conservatives push back against restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At least 400 people gathered outside the mansion on Summit Avenue to demand relief. Many wore pro-Trump gear. Very few practiced social distancing or wore masks. Dozens carried American flags or signs bearing messages such as “Reopen MN.” Others drove past in vehicles bearing signs against the restrictions.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who has made reopening businesses a focus of his campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, expressed support for the protesters as he made several passes past the mansion in his campaign RV.
Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” along with similar tweets for Michigan and Virginia, one day after he gave governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the public health crisis. The guidelines make clear that a return to normalcy will take far longer than Trump initially envisioned, and let governors call the shots.
Walz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the protest and tweets. He recently extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 4. He has said the state needs to significantly expand its testing capacity before it can begin relaxing restrictions, despite increasing pressure from Republicans to move quickly.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus has climbed by 159 to 2,071, while 17 new fatalities have raised the state’s death toll to 111, the Minnesota Department of Health reported. As of Friday, 223 patients were hospitalized — 10 more than Thursday — and 106 of them were in intensive care, an increase of three. But 1,066 patients have recovered and no longer need isolation.
Trump’s tweet got a “thank you” tweet from Lewis, as he kicked off a “Re-Open Minnesota for Business” tour of the state Friday. The former congressman and talk radio host says he wants the economy to reopen while protecting the vulnerable. He plans to visit small business owners at their shuttered locations across the state in the coming weeks.
Walz loosened some restrictions Friday by signing an executive order that allows residents to golf, boat, fish, hunt and hike as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines: maintain 6 feet of social distancing; avoid crowded areas; and stay close to home.
Businesses that could reopen starting Saturday include golf courses, bait shops, marinas and outdoor shooting ranges. Campgrounds, recreational equipment retail and rental stores, charter boats and guided fishing remain closed.
“It’s important for us to stay active and enjoy the outdoors while preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Walz said in a statement. “This measure will allow Minnesotans to take advantage of more opportunities to get outside, while still doing their part to keep their neighbors healthy.”
Meanwhile, at least one employee at the JBS pork plant in Worthington is infected with the coronavirus, UFCW Local 663 President Matt Utecht told the Star Tribune. The plant has about 2,000 workers. A Smithfield Foods pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, shut down after hundreds of workers there tested positive and one died. JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett said the Worthington plant remains open but declined to say how many workers have been infected.
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Source: The Village Reporter