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APPLE VALLEY CHAMBER NOTE: Below you will see the following statement under Dept. Labor & Industry:
  • As we mentioned last time: mandate of “must” to “should” work from home as of today. Still some legal requirements re disabilities, requesting accommodations.
  • Given the rates we are seeing of infections, strong recommendation to keep people working from home.
  • Also for Vaccines: Launched with food service/hospitality. Moving on to focus on manufacturing focus this week.
The Q&A below has a website to refer to as to if you can require employees to tell you if they have or have not been vaccinated.
2021 04 15 Call, DEED
Thursday, April 15, 2021
11:06 AM
Peter Brickwedde, Asst Commissioner of Commerce Zappia
Beth Johnston, Policy Advisor, Commissioner of Revenue
Dan Huff, Asst Commissioner of MDH
Merone Malcolm, MDH, Vaccines
Steve Grove, Commissioner of DEED
Mark Simmer, staff, DEED
Darielle Dannon
Nicole Blissenbach, Asst Commissioner of DLI
Helpful Links:
DEED
COVID-19 Information for Businesses – Stay Safe Guidance
COVID-19 Information for Minnesotans – Covid-19 Information and Resources
Minnesota Unemployment Insurance – Minnesota Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program
MN Dept. of Health
Businesses & Employers – Businesses and Employers: COVID-19
COVID-19 Vaccine Connector: COVID-19 Vaccine Connector,
MN Dept. of Labor & Industry
COVID-19 Resources – UPDATES RELATED TO COVID-19
MN Dept. of Commerce
MDH, Dan Huff
·     I wish I had better news. Our cases are not going in the right direction.
·     We are doing an amazing job of vaccinations. Has changed the trajectory.
·     But what we’re seeing: younger people getting infected and hospitalized at higher rate.
·     2736 new cases today, highest daily count since the Dec/early Jan time period.
·     Positivity is now at 7%. A month ago we were about 3.5%.
·     Case count continues to increase. Now at 35.2 cases/100K people. Just a couple months ago, after “pause,” were down to 12-13 cases/100K people.
·     Even more concerning: even with progress on vaccination, seeing increase in hospitalization.
·     699 beds now in use for COVID in the state. 60% increase since beginning of April. That is really concerning.
·     Majority of new hospital admissions are among those under 60yo.
o   More transmission withing younger people.
o   Variants, esp B117, seems to be really impacting youth, teenagers. And, from there, spreading to families.
o   Increase in outbreaks in all areas: gyms, restaurants, salons, and other workplaces.
·     Please work with employees to double down on safety measures. Can blunt this if we mask, stay home, get tested, socially distance.
·     We are in a tenuous place and we need time to get vaccinations done.
·     Please hunker down for another 6 weeks or so, to give vaccinations time to change the tide.
DEED, Steve Grove
·     March job report: up approx 22K jobs.
.8% up in March.
Hospitality, 4300 new jobs.
Construction, 7900 new jobs.
Mfg, 2000 new jobs.
Some job loss in govt.
·     4.2% unemployment rate.
o   National rate of 6.0%, mostly those leaving the labor market.
o   Highest rate of job growth since Oct. solid 20K higher since then.
o   Lost 416K since pandemic, gotten back approx 225K. More significant impact in BIPOC community.
o   Unemployment levels: 9% Black, 7.7% in Hispanic.
·     UI: 281K Minnesotans claiming weekly benefit. Going down 6-7K/week.
Commerce, Max Zappia
·     No major issues.
·     A lot of time now in Legislative session.
·     Looking at potential for further civil unrest over coming weeks.
·     Lesson learned last year: insurance coverage is extremely important.
DLI, Nicole Blissenbach
·     Back in Jan, Pres Biden signed EO asking OSHA to consider whether emergency temporary standard was in order. EO directed them to have a report out by March 15. have passed that date.
·     Released: Secretary Walsh suspended the drafting of an emergency temporary standard. Is under consideration. Haven’t received much info as to where we are in that process. Could move from that to, instead, proposal for permanent infectious disease standard.
·     This work began in 2014, 2017 (?), in process since then. May see more attention focused on development of such a standard. Monitoring.
·     As we mentioned last time: mandate of “must” to “should” work from home as of today. Still some legal requirements re disabilities, requesting accommodations.
·     Given the rates we are seeing of infections, strong recommendation to keep people working from home.
Revenue, Beth Johnston
·     Tax deadline pushed to May 17.
·     So far, have 1.9M returns, typically get 3M each year.
Vaccine Team: Merone Malcolm
·     Past weekend, Gov Walz announced over 2M Minnesotans have received 1 dose. Nearly 1/2 of all Minnesota adults have received.
·     Pace has continued to increase. 1M doses took 12 weeks. 2d M took 5 weeks to administer. Getting more efficient.
·     State is working to continue getting more vaccines into the state.
·     Continue to be a leader: rank within the top 10 states consistently.
·     Wed was full launch of clinic at State Fairgrounds, in partnership with fed govt.
o   Appts full through next Wed for now. Encourage people living in the relevant zip codes to get vaccinated there.
o   Feedback thus far has been positive.
o   Clinic is able to administer 3000 Pfizer doses/day. Should balance our challenges with J&J.
·     Re J&J, MN is advising clinics honor the 4/13 federal recommendation to pause on use while FDC reviews data and reported challenges.
·     Continuing outreach within critical workforce sectors. Gov released “roll up your sleeves” campaign in early April. Working to stay close to critical industries. Launched with food service/hospitality. Moving on to focus on mfg focus this week.
·     Continue to use Covid Vaccine Connector.
Questions
·     Are you seeing recurrences among those vaccinated? Huff: not seeing high incidence, or “vaccine breakthrough.” we ARE seeing some, though. Very small #. Definitely within the realm of 95-98% efficacy of vaccine. And very few really get sick, more often asymptomatic. In Brazil, with P1 variant, seem to have very high rates of reinfection. 20 cases of P1 variant in MN thus far.
·     When will Gov announce plans for reopening 100%? Grove: we are in the process of unfolding all the plans the Gov announced over a month ago, 3 phases… not a current next date for reopening moment. With virus trending in the wrong direction, we’re in this unique period: vaccine and variants are at odds. Hoping the vaccine will win that battle very soon. Gov wants to dial forward very badly, as soon as possible. But in a safe way that keeps our citizens safe and hospital capacity available. Goal is 80%+ of residents immunized, achieving “herd immunity.” that said, business is growing, large venues are welcoming fans, summer vents are being planned. Re summer events/festivals, MDH working hard to develop further guidance. More to come.
·     Is it true that the Legislature is allowing virtual mtgs till July 1? No legislative bill to extend planning commission/city council meetings… Grove: this is the first time I’ve heard that question. We’ve seen hybrid approach at Legislature, most are being done virtually… I expect both to continue moving forward. There are carve-outs in all Eos for required in-person meetings.
·     Can we now hold in-person business/board meetings so long as we maintain social distancing? Blissenbach: no prohibition on workplace mtgs. All safety requirements in documents still apply, such as 6′ social distancing and mask wearing. That said, they can occur.
·     Are you seeing recurrences among those who have been vaccinated? See above question.
·     Timing for vaccinations of those under 16 yo? Malcolm: conversations underway, don’t have exact timeline yet.
·     Are you finding vaccines are effective with all variants? Malcolm: that’s another question for Dan Huff, he’s left the mtg. will need to follow up.
·     Information on Benton Cty, scheduled for vaccine clinic opening moved out from 4/14 to 4/21? Malcolm: will have to check with planning team. Was this local public health or MDH clinic? Will circle back with questioner.
·     Any information on death rates? Are they up as well? Malcolm: I do not have that data with me right now.
·     Grove: UI, are we seeing increase in fraud and ID theft? Grove: consistent challenges in UI system with fraud, seen across the country, no matter the period of time. We do live with a certain % of fraud always. Haven’t seen it go up during COVID. Has gone up due to the sheer # of people in the system, but that % hasn’t increased significantly. If you do get a letter re UI that you didn’t expect, contact us. We can follow up on those cases. Have been doing some proactive activity.
·     Can you require employees to disclose whether they have been vaccinated? Blissenbach: refer people to EEOC website. They have a number of questions re vaccinations and what is allowable under ADA and what is not. Because those laws fall under EEOC/MN Dept of Human Rights, look at www.eeoc.gov website. COVID-related info is in one area, along with a number of questions. Detailed guidance re questioning, requiring, etc.
·     Is the Gov saying that when we reach 80% vaccination the Gov will reopen (as seen in other states in Upper Midwest)? Grove: not making an announcement about that. Is a goal the Gov has laid out, but not making a commitment to tie that to reopening on this call. MN has fared better than our neighbors, we will continue to pursue our approach. For now, encourage vaccinations, mask wearing, social distancing.
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