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House 26B: Is Minnesota doing too much or too little to combat coronavirus?

House 26B: GOP Rep. Nels Pierson and DFL challenger Randy Brock.

Nels Pierson and Randy Brock main photo.jpg
Rep. Nels Pierson and Randy Brock.

Is Minnesota doing too much to battle the coronavirus pandemic? Too little? Or is it just right?

That was the question put to GOP Rep. Nels Pierson and DFL challenger Randy Brock Tuesday eveing during a forum sponsored by the Rochester chapter of the League of Minnesota Voters. Representatives from the Rochester Post Bulletin and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce participated as panelists.

Pierson, a real estate developer who is seeking his fourth two-year term, said the Legislature has "basically been taken out of the equation" by Gov. Tim Walz, who has used emergency executive powers to mandate face masks and to impose capacity limits on restaurants, bars and social gatherings. He said he believed Minnesotans have done more to stop the virus through their individual actions than have some of the state-imposed restrictions.

"Minnesotans take this virus very seriously," Pierson said. "I've had conversations with people who are less inclined to participate in that, but eventually they are following the rules."

Pierson said the governor and his health commissioner should be scrutinized for their decision to release COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, where the majority of the 1,900 deaths in the state attributed to the virus have occurred.


"It seems unacceptable," Pierson said. "I think we really need to do more to protect those people, the vulnerable people who are living in those facilities."

Brock, a former KTTC-TV meteorologist and PB podcaster, noted that 200,000 people have died from the virus. Minnesota's case count has been relatively low compared to neighboring states, such as South Dakota and Iowa. And lessons have been learned from the experiences of other states. When Texas earlier in the year lifted nearly all restrictions, it soon had to pull back on the reins to combat a surge of infections.

What has been frustrating, Brock said, is how "politicized" the debate over the best approach to fighting the pandemic has become. Brock said containing the virus would have happened faster if there had been less "mixed messaging" and more unity.

"I don't live in fear," Brock said. "I've been taking my kids to their sports over the course of the summer. We follow the rules. We wear our masks. We're doing our best."

All 134 state House seats and 67 Senate seats are up for grabs this November. House District 26B covers parts of Rochester and rural parts of Olmsted County, including the cities of Dover, Eyota and Stewartville.

The election is set for Nov. 3, but early voting began Sept. 18.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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