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Gov. Tim Walz, in an interview at the six-month milepost of Minnesota’s emergency pandemic response, spoke about everything from mask mandates to economic recovery.

On criticism that state models forecast too many deaths:

“We’re looking at a novel coronavirus that was wreaking havoc through Asia and Europe. And in those first few weeks, the best information we had was indicating this was the rate. So those data were being driven by real world data. Now, certainly, as that virus either moved, transmitted, mutated, or we got better at addressing it, those numbers changed. But no model is right. … And the ones that you want to look at predict trends on this. As it turned out, in the models that we used, they were predicting if we didn’t do anything there would be, you know, millions of Americans dead — tens of millions infected. I think the thing that gets lost in this, there are 200,000 dead, there are 7 million infected, and we have been at this only six months.”

On why the mask mandate may have worked even if cases didn’t plummet:

“It was my hope we would have it enough under control that that mask mandate would drop us from 5% down to 3% (test positivity rate). But I think what it did was it coincided with the burst in the Upper Midwest that was being seeded back from vacations and stuff. So where North Dakota went to 22%, South Dakota to 22%, Iowa to 31%, we just sat right there around 5 and we’ve upped into about 5.7%. Now we’re coming back down again. Because I follow the data, I’m not going to go out and pound my chest that this did it, because it’s hard to prove it all the way. But my instincts are, and I think what the experts are saying, it did have a pretty profound impact.

On the COVID-19-induced challenge of a billion-dollar budget deficit:

“I always get in trouble when I say this, but I think it’s important to say it — that we have to look at every possible scenario. Now, depending on who the listener is when they hear that, there’ll be those who would hear that and say, ‘Oh, here comes tax increases,’ or if you’re a public employee you’re saying, ‘Oh, here come the cuts.’ But I think the public has an expectation that we need to think this through smartly.”