Minnesota Youth Council: COVID-19 Statement
March 27, 2020
The Minnesota Youth Council (MYC) is a collaboration of youth and adults working together to empower and mobilize young people across the state to exercise their voices, opinions, and ideas, as well as take action on issues affecting youth. In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature formally recognized the work of the Minnesota Youth Council, passing into law the Minnesota Youth Council Committee Bill. This established the council as the “voice of youth” to the state legislature and the Governor — the only legislatively mandated youth council of its kind in the country. The following is a statement from the youth representatives of the Minnesota Youth Council:
The Minnesota Youth Council feels compelled to inform our constituents of the resources that are available to them, and to strongly encourage our constituents to act in a way that is most beneficial for them as individuals, and for society as a whole, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate through this time of uncertainty, it is necessary to provide support and resources to the young people of Minnesota, while also establishing a platform to voice the concerns and challenges specific to our age demographic. The MYC recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring to light the important issues of mental health and student support in the educational system, thus establishing an infrastructure better equipped to handle the effects of a potential pandemic in the future and fully supporting Minnesota students.
PRECAUTIONS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
Social distancing is a practice being used to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the American Red Cross, social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. If you happen to be outside your home, it is necessary that you stay at least six feet away from all other people. For the safety of ourselves and our community, we, as young people, must practice social distancing at all times. During this time, it is unacceptable to be in close physical contact with anyone other than those you live with. We call on all young people to practice social distancing not only for themselves, but also for those in their community who are elderly, immunocompromised, or otherwise at a higher risk of facing complications regarding the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, March 25th, Governor Walz announced a statewide stay-at-home order effective from March 27th to April 10th. This measure directs Minnesotans to only leave their homes for essential needs such as medical assistance and groceries. People can still participate in outdoor activities such as hiking or biking, ordering food for take-out, and to assist family members not living with you for care purposes as long as social distancing protocols are maintained. Additionally, if you feel unsafe at home, you are allowed to relocate to ensure your safety. Please visit the website for the Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for further details on what is and isn’t allowed under this order.
In addition to the requests of the Governor’s office regarding staying home and social distancing, maintaining personal health and hygiene is also very important. Using proper hand-washing techniques and avoiding contact with one’s face are simple and necessary precautions to take during this time.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Although social distancing makes the world safer for those at risk, it can also have a negative impact on an individual’s mental and physical health. It is important to continue online social interactions with friends and peers, and to pick up hobbies and other activities that foster a positive, overall well-being.
While closing schools is an effective way of mitigating the virus, students’ concerns for their mental health are exacerbated as their social contact is limited and the information they receive is increasingly negative. During this time of crisis, it is completely normal to feel anxious, stressed, nervous, lonely, or sad. We realize that the overabundance of news regarding COVID-19 could pose challenges for a young person’s mental health. We encourage young people to limit the amount of coronavirus related news you watch if necessary. Additionally, when finding information about the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that the information you are receiving is accurate, and reflects the true nature of your community’s safety, is very important. Examples of reliable and accurate sources include: the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
For many young people, school and work are safe spaces and offer essential support. Returning to home for an extended period of time may not be safe or welcoming for all young people. We all come from different backgrounds and have experienced different things, and it is vital that we are reaching out to our peers that may be experiencing some type of trauma in this moment. A simple phone call or text could be what someone needs. We are in this crisis together, so showing up for one another is crucial.
Mental and physical health go hand in hand, and along with maintaining an individual’s mental state, physical activity is also very important in this time. The Mayo Clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Exercise facilities are closed under Governor Walz’s stay-at-home order, so pursuing a fitness regimen outside of the gym is important. You can do this by using online resources such as YouTube, which has a plethora of guided exercise videos that require no equipment. Simpler activities such as walking, running, and biking can also be sources of exercise and safer alternatives to spaces like gyms, provided you keep a six-foot distance from others while outside. Indoor activities, such as yoga and meditation, are also great activities to try during this time.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out and do all you can to maintain your health and support one another. There is a list of resources at the end of this document for your reference.
DISTANCE LEARNING MEASURES
On Monday, March 16, Governor Walz announced that all Minnesota schools are closed from March 18 for eight school days, until March 27. This short period of time has allowed teachers and administrators to prepare for distance learning and different avenues of student support. On Wednesday, March 25, the Governor’s office announced a similar stay-at-home order, and extended school closures until May 4th. Distance learning varies greatly from district to district, but all Minnesota schools are working to provide students with the education and resources that they need during this time.
Though distance learning is unprecedented for many, it is the reality at this time. Given the barriers of accessibility and technology, we encourage patience from both teachers and students; distance learning will be a learning curve for many and it is important to be respectful of that. In accordance with CDC suggestions, maintaining a routine is also very important. Getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, waking up at a normal time, and getting ready each day will also aid in the adjustment to distance learning.
One concern for many Minnesota high school students is the status of standardized and qualifying exams, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), the ACT, and SAT, during this school year. Given the current circumstances, these organizations have established new measures for at-home studying and testing tools, all of which are available on the websites of each specific organization. Communication with teachers and administration regarding testing is also very important.
As distance learning has become the reality for the foreseeable future, it may feel like you can’t go to your school for help. However, the state of Minnesota requires schools to provide meals and offer mental health services to their students during school closures. Please reach out to your school administration about how you can access these resources.
The Minnesota Youth Council has worked to create this guide in order to encourage our constituents to stay strong during this time, and reinforce the necessary recommendations to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Though this time is difficult and uncertain, we share an overwhelming sense of responsibility for one another.
MYC members are reading lots of books, spending time outdoors (while practicing social distancing), enjoying our immediate family’s company, and catching up on shows. We hope you’ll join us in staying home and being patient.