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Amid calls for full economic reopening, Walz says 'the virus is holding them back'

Minnesota's COVID-19 outbreak may be plateauing.
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coronavirus, businesses, Faribault

Empty streets in Faribault, Minnesota. 

Now a few days into reopening Minnesota businesses 50% capacity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz is being urged to fully reopen the economy by Friday, June 19. 

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Ready coalition, which represents businesses throughout the state with support from more than 50 local chambers of commerce and trade associations, sent a letter to the governor saying businesses, especially small businesses, need to be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity or they'll risk closing for good. 

"We ask you to recognize these businesses are ready. They are ready to return and have designed plans to safely return their workers and protect their customers," the letter states. "They are making incremental progress by being open at a small percentage of their total capacity, but that will not sustain any long-term success. They should be allowed to fully reopen no later than June 19."

The letter notes that other Midwestern states, including Indiana and Kansas, have been given clear guidance on when opening at 100% capacity is allowed. 

COVID-19 remains a threat in Minnesota, though state health officials have hypothesized that the state's outbreak may be plateauing, during which the number of cases and deaths are lower on average than they were in recent weeks.

'The virus is holding them back'

"I think this whole idea that we're holding them, no one's holding them back. The virus is holding them back. You saw the full openings that happened in Texas, Arizona and Utah are all leading to closures again, and a second closure will be catastrophic," said Walz on WCCO Radio Friday morning

"We've provided consumers the confidence that when they go back, it's safe to go back. There has not been a rush back to business in Georgia or other places in terms of huge numbers because there's still uncertainty. The next phase is to find a new normal.

"If people continue to refuse to wear masks or continue to gather in close, indoor spaces, this virus is going to continue to grow. And that's what Arizona's lesson is to all of us."

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said this week that it's Highly possible that we could see the pattern shift again and the cases continue to grow," while also warning that a resurgence of outbreak in the fall and winter is a "very possible scenario." 

The short-term view of the outbreak is also pending the results of recent large gatherings and protests since George Floyd died while in police custody on Memorial Day. Health officials suggest that a rise in cases of COVID-19 are possible, though it will take up to three weeks to know for sure if those late-May events will have sparked new infections. 

Walz argues that even if businesses were allowed to fully reopen with safety measures in places, the data from other states doesn't support the idea that customers will return en masse. 

"We're operating at 50%. There's no one, CDC, no states are saying 'take the masks off and go back 100%,' there's just no data to show that that's going to help economically as well as health-wise."

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