Commentary: Governor Walz Is Only Hurting the Little Guy

The shutdown is being felt disproportionately by smaller businesses.

In a controversial decision last week, Governor Tim Walz extended his stay-at-home order until May 18. This keeps most businesses that were closed shut down, but allows some retail operations to do “curbside pickup.”

The governor claimed this would put 30,000 Minnesotans back to work, but that is unlikely. Barbershops and salons, for example, can only now sell curbside items, and are unable to do haircuts. Of course, many will stay closed as it isn’t financially worth it to re-open without being able to provide their main slate of services.

A small business owner, and a welder, wrote on social media: “The only ones who support this don’t have small business to run. Or are lazy and want to sit at home.” 

Walz’s order also doesn’t yet relax restrictions on medical procedures. According to the Walz administration, the state is currently in talks with medical and dental providers about the rules they will have to follow in order to resume operations. Yet the Walz administration has exempted abortion from being shut down, and abortions continue to occur in Minnesota even though cancer surgeries, among many other procedures, have been disallowed.

The problem is, there’s no justification for continuing the complete shutdown.

Minnesota has had over 5,000 coronavirus cases, and case growth remains steady. But predictions of overwhelmed hospitals have been completely off the mark. Over 99% of people who have died from the virus in Minnesota were either in long term care facilities or had an underlying condition.

Worse, the shutdown is being felt disproportionately by smaller businesses. Target, Costco, and Wal-Mart remain open, because they sell groceries, while competitors are forced to close. Chipotle and other national food chains are seeing steady sales (Chipotle’s stock, for example, is at or near its all-time-high). Meanwhile, local food outlets remain closed indefinitely, or don’t have the same infrastructure that size brings to enable online ordering for takeout.

The sad reality of the coronavirus pandemic is the deaths that have occurred. The sad reality of the shutdowns—which are not being reduced despite hard evidence that the virus is spreading much less quickly than initially feared—is that we are hurting the little guy and gal. This is even seen in the stock market. National brands and giant tech companies are flying high—smaller cap corporations are suffering. 

Won’t an end to the shutdown cause the virus to spread more quickly? Not necessarily. People will likely continue to socially distance themselves, without the government telling them to, and business owners should and can be trusted to exhibit caution and responsibility as they resume operations. 

Added to this, the virus will be with us for a long time—this is our new reality. Shutting down another several weeks accomplishes nothing. Better to re-open, allow people to police themselves, place some limits on business operations (especially to reduce crowd sizes in places like bars), and make provision for at-risk persons to be able to continue to distance themselves. 

Right now, with only a few places to go, people are packing into Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target. That doesn’t make any sense. In Walz’s world, getting a haircut is deemed dangerous, but getting an abortion isn’t. And a little girl is being denied a surgery that will help her breathe better—one of many denied medical access during this time. That doesn’t make any sense, either.


Willis Krumholz
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Willis L. Krumholz is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.