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Reality Check: Fact Versus Fiction In Minnesota's Coronavirus Fight

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Wednesday marks the 40th day of Minnesota's stay-at-home order.

That action by Gov. Tim Walz is just one of many issues ending up in Pat Kessler's inbox, including these questionable claims.

Claim 1

Some of you wonder why we haven't reported that COVID-19 was man-made in a Chinese lab.

It's because intelligence reports generated by United States and European agencies say it's not true. Evidence shows it's a wild virus that jumped from bat to human.

But, intelligence agencies do say there's strong evidence China hid the pandemic, lied about its spread, and secretly stockpiled supplies before much of the rest of the world knew.

Claim 2:

Many of you question claims by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz that 82% of Minnesota businesses are open when the state is shut down through his stay-at-home order.

Business data filed with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show the 82% number is the number of workers, not businesses.

Here's how DEED calculates the numbers, according to a department statement:

The 82% was calculated using numbers of critical and exempted workers as part of total Minnesota labor force, prior to the issuance of Executive Order 20-40 on April 23 and Executive Order 20-48 on April 30. The percent of Minnesotans working now is calculated to be between 80% and 90%.

There is not a precise percent because not everyone who has filed an unemployment insurance claim has lost their job -- they can file if their hours are reduced below 32 hours per week -- and some number of workers has been able to go back to work under recent executive orders, although we don't have a precise way to measure this number of workers yet because while certain businesses can reopen, they may choose not to immediately, and they may choose not to bring all laid-off employees back, among other factors.

Even so, the number of unemployed workers is shocking: More than 613,000 Minnesotans applied for unemployment benefits since March 16. That's an astonishing 20% of the state workforce. And it's approaching the state's 25% unemployment in the 1930s Great Depression.

READ MORE: The Forces Behind The Stay-At-Home Order Protests

Claim 3

A lot of you believe Minnesota's stay-at-home order is illegal, calling Gov. Walz "king," "commie" and "tyrant."

In fact, stay-at-home is legal. Minnesota law allows a governor to declare a peacetime emergency. The law gives governors in an emergency the power to close businesses and restrict movement through executive orders.

Each executive order must be ratified by an executive council, including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. Currently, all of the state's top elected officials are Democrats.

And the Minnesota legislature can overrule the governor by majority vote. Currently, the Minnesota Senate is Republican, and the Minnesota House is Democrat.

Claim 4

Among the most frequent claims you are sending to us is this one:

"The crisis is overblown because the number of cases and deaths is not as large as predicted."

The state bases its stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines on several health care computer models that predict where the virus will spread and how deadly it will be.

Health care officials acknowledge that as the models change, so do the guidelines.

Scientists call public reactions a "preparedness paradox." That's when the state takes public actions that seem like overreactions to many in order to slow the spread of the virus.

And the more successful those actions are at preventing deaths, the more critics say stay-at-home wasn't worth it.

Here are some of the sources that we used for this Reality Check:
CONTACT US: Do you have a story about the COVID-19 pandemic to share with us? Please contact us here.

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