Message from Executive Director Julie Bleyhl

Executive Board and Local Presidents, 
I wanted to send you all another email giving you a situational update on the COVID-19 pandemic, the bold and decisive actions we have taken, and other updates that are of importance. As you know, this is a unique emergency on a scale that we have not experienced before. We must all step up and work together to meet the many challenges we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
All Council 5 offices are to remain closed until further notice. All meetings scheduled in any of the offices are to be canceled until further notice to protect all staff and members' health, safety, and welfare during this period of uncertainty.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has (as of today) tested more than 2,762 patients and has confirmed 77 positive cases of COVID-19. These cases are located in Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Nicollet, Olmstead, Ramsey, Renville, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington, and Wright counties. This information is updated daily at: MDH has confirmed "community spread" of this disease and expects to see more cases in the days and weeks ahead. It is our job to ensure that we do all that we can to stay home, implement social distancing, wash our hands, and follow other MDH recommendations to keep ourselves, families, co-workers, and others safe and healthy. MDH has issued updated testing criteria since there is a lack of test kits. 
Additionally, the MN House and Senate are now in recess, after passing a $200 million COVID-19 response package and will reconvene in mid-April. The Legislature still must ratify our contracts, pass a public works bonding bill, pass legislation to protect workers, and more. The final date of adjournment set forth in the MN Constitution is May 18, but a special session is always a possibility. It is important to note that today, 1 case of COVID-19 was confirmed at the Capitol, that of a Minnesota House legislative staffer. 
As you are aware, Governor Walz has now issued 7 executive orders, including declaring an emergency, closing schools, bars and restaurants, protecting residents of our veterans' homes, and more. A link to all of the executive orders can be found here. It is important to specifically note Executive Order (EO) 20-07, an order affecting our state's executive branch agency members. We have worked with MAPE and other public sector unions to work through what is contained in EO 20-07. We have shared a joint AFSCME Council 5/MAPE statement through an email blast and in other forms of communication. That statement can be found here. We will continue to closely monitor developments that impact our collective bargaining agreements. This executive order is only in effect until the emergency declaration is lifted. 
On COVID-19-specific paid leave for state executive branch employees: The attached document is MMB's directive containing clear information on how to utilize it, eligibility, etc. We will be posting this on our website, social media accounts, etc. 
The US House (on Saturday) and US Senate (today) have both passed another COVID-19 package on a bipartisan basis that would provide for free COVID-19 testing, paid emergency leave for infected persons or to care for a family member, and other provisions. It is on its way to Donald Trump's desk. It is unclear if he is going to sign it or not. We will continue to analyze this legislation's impact on our members and Minnesotans. 
Our communications team has put together a very useful link to available community resources, information on the executive orders and city/county local declarations, our statements to the press and members, and much more. That information can be found on our website here and it is highly encouraged to share it with all members and the public. 
It is my continued privilege to serve this institution as Executive Director on behalf of our dedicated and passionate membership and we will continue to take thoughtful, measures, and decisive action going forward. We are in unchartered unknowns with this pandemic. I am proud to lead our union as your Executive Director, as our members step forward on the front lines, as they always do, to care for each other and all Minnesotans. 
Take care and stay well, siblings! 
In solidarity, 
Julie Bleyhl
Executive Director