Governor Tim Walz is ordering bars and restaurants to close — except for take-out and delivery — for four weeks beginning Friday at midnight, to try to tamp down the surge in COVID cases in Minnesota. Fitness facilities, entertainment venues, event spaces and similar establishments will also have to close for a month, and adult and youth sports will also be “paused.” In-person social gatherings with persons outside a household will be prohibited.
Retail businesses, salons, and places of worship may continue operating with current restrictions. Childcare remains open, and schools will continue to operate, shifting between in-person, distance, and hybrid learning depending on local conditions of the pandemic.
Walz says unless Minnesotans again take measures to help reduce the number of infected health care workers, hospitals could be overrun. “You are going to end up with a situation where we have to ethically triage who gets care and who doesn’t. You will have people in the hallways,” he says.
Walz says what’s really hard is the restrictions affect some of the most-important places, like the home. “To invite a friend over, or a brother-in-law like I normally do to watch the Vikings play the Bears, is one of the riskiest things we can do right now,” he says. The governor is urging Minnesotans to again step up to the plate to control the spread of COVID. “Many of you did what needed to be done, but it’s here now…. We are at a critical point and it’s time for us to do it again.”
Ryan Wilson with the group “Let Them Play MN” takes issue with the governor’s decision to “pause” youth athletics. Wilson says without the structure of sports for kids, and the desire to *not* get COVID so they can continue to play, “Kids are gonna be left to their own device. They’re gonna be playing X-Box in the basement with their friends or doing whatever activities and it’s gonna be much more likely to transmit it.” He adds, “Student athletes have a lower incidence of COVID than the student bodies at-large…. We’re disappointed that the governor is making a non-scientific, non-data-driven decision here.”
Republican Representative Dave Baker from Willmar says restaurants he’s talked to, “Some are angry, some want to see lawsuits, but [a] large majority are saying, we kinda get it. We don’t want to do this, but what we need to do then is we need to start finding ways to make sure we are there to support them when they re-open.” Baker is talking about delaying sales tax payments and using some of the remaining federal CARES Act money to help restaurants and bars.
State Senator Kent Eken from Twin Valley — a Democrat like the governor — says there should be a regional approach for border communities. He says, “If we’re closing down bars and restaurants in Moorhead and Dilworth and so on, but they’re open across the border in Fargo, people are just gonna go across the border.” Eken adds the legislature should have more input on decisions that close businesses.
Walz says there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. “I believe with every fiber of my being that there is an incredibly strong possibility, more like a probability, that we will be vaccinating people before the end of this four-week pause in our long-term care facilities and our front-line health care providers,” says Walz, adding the state is ready to roll out a vaccine plan to the rest of Minnesota.