New guidance pauses in-person social gatherings, dining, sports, fitness centers
In response to the skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 in the state, Gov. Tim Walz has announced a four-week pause on social activities, in-person dining, sports, and fitness establishments.
“Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19,” Gov. Walz said. “This immense loss strikes at the heart of our state. We are at a breaking point. As hospitals near the crisis of turning away new patients, continuing as things are is simply not sustainable.
“The actions announced today will help prevent more families from losing a loved one and ensure our hospitals can treat those who fall ill,” Walz continued. “While these actions mean incredible hardship for many, they are the fastest way to recover our economy, keep our kids in school, and get back to the activities we love.”
The new restrictions aim to curtail community spread. Last week, Gov. Walz explained that public health measures are targeting who, when, and where the virus is spreading. The scientific research and public health data indicate that the virus is spread most in places where people gather for long periods of time, especially when masks are not consistently worn.
For instance, a quick stop at a retail store with a mask and social distancing appears to be lower risk than a gathering of friends for dinner where guests are likely to be seated closer together and unmasked while eating or drinking—whether it’s at a restaurant or in their own home.
Beginning Friday, November 20, at 11:59pm and lasting until Friday, December 18, in-person social gatherings with individuals outside your household are prohibited; bars and restaurants are dialed back to take-out and delivery service only; gyms, fitness studios, entertainment venues, event spaces, and similar establishments will need to close; and adult and youth sports are paused.
Retail businesses, salons, and places of worship may continue to operate with proper precautions in place. Childcare remains open. Schools will continue to operate under the Safe Learning Plan, which shifts between in-person, distance, and hybrid learning depending on the local conditions of the virus. All other current restrictions also remain in effect.
“I know the upcoming holidays make it incredibly difficult to stay home and stay apart, but this is how we keep the people we love safe and healthy,” said Lieutenant Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “Take it from me, no celebration is worth an empty seat that will never be filled. This dial back will help us do everything we can to make sure our tables are full next year.”
The pandemic has reached a concerning and dangerous phase throughout much of the Midwest this November. It took 29 weeks to reach 100,000 infections in Minnesota, and just six weeks after that to reach 200,000. Sometime next week, less than three weeks after reaching 200,000 infections, Minnesota will reach 300,000 infections. This week, the U.S. reached a grim milestone of 250,000 deaths.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the governor asked Minnesotans to help slow the spread of the virus as hospitals built up capacity to ensure they could care for everyone who falls ill. That extra capacity is now being put to the test as the virus spreads quickly across the state, region, and country.
Health care workers are also getting sick. It was reported on Wednesday that more than 900 staff at the Mayo Clinic have contracted the coronavirus in the last few weeks.
The sickness of health care workers impacts hospitals’ ability to provide care even when there are enough actual hospital beds. This has put our hospitals on the verge of dangerous capacity shortages with some hospitals already reporting turning away new patients.
“Every day brings us closer to having safe and effective vaccines, but we must take action now to slow down the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in all corners of our state,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.
“Our health care workers continue to work hard to provide care but we can’t afford to overwhelm them. Every Minnesotan needs to understand that they have a key role to play here. That means staying home and avoiding close contact with those outside your household,” Malcolm said. “It means wearing a mask when you do need to go out in public. It means staying home when you’re not feeling well. It means getting tested when appropriate and isolating until you get the test results.”
To support small businesses that are struggling as they do their part to combat the spread of COVID-19, last week Gov. Walz announced an additional $10 million in Small Business Relief Grants. This funding will support an additional 1,000 businesses that have applied for the grant program. It supplements hundreds of millions of dollars in small business support that Minnesota has allocated since the beginning of the pandemic. With options at the state-level severely limited moving forward, the governor is pushing the federal government for additional support. Minnesotans with questions about unemployment insurance are encouraged to visit uimn.org.
“Minnesota business leaders have been doing everything they can to keep businesses and workplaces safe as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we’re in a precarious position that’s now more urgent than ever before,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. “That’s why we must collectively take action to slow the spread of the virus – the health and well-being of Minnesotans, and our state’s jobs and economy, depend on it.”
“To all Minnesotans who are struggling to get by, I know this pandemic is devastating,” Gov. Walz said. “This pandemic is not fair. We need federal support to help keep our businesses afloat, our workers paid, and our families with food on the table. I will continue to fight with every fiber of my being for that support that you need and deserve.”
Executive Order 20-99 will have the full force and effect of law upon the approval of the Executive Council, which is made up of Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon, and State Auditor Julie Blaha.
More information on these restrictions and the state response is available here. Information and graphics provided by the Office of Tim Walz, except where noted.