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COVID-19: How will Minnesota's ban on social gatherings be enforced?

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced social gatherings of all kinds with people outside your household are prohibited for the next four weeks.

For the next four weeks, Minnesotans aren't allowed to gather with people outside of their own household – whether indoors or outdoors.

The ban on social gatherings is among a slew of new restrictions in Gov. Tim Walz's executive order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, until Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m. 

Under this order, all social gatherings with people outside of those you live with are prohibited. It doesn't matter if they are spontaneous or planned, outdoors or can accommodate social distancing, public or private, a leisure activity or at your house – for the next four weeks, they aren't allowed.

Related: Gov. Walz explains reasoning behind new COVID-19 restrictions

The state is restricting these get-togethers a week after Gov. Walz asked Minnesotans to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people from three different households, with health officials saying they believe many of the current outbreaks are fueled in part by informal gatherings of friends and family. 

In his address to Minnesotans Wednesday night, Walz said inviting a friend over to your house is one of the "riskiest things" you can do right now.  

So the big question with this four-week ban on social gatherings of all kinds – especially with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up – is how will it be enforced? 

Those who host or plan gatherings – spontaneous or not – could be subject to enforcement action by city, county and/or state authorities, Executive Order 20-99 states. Those who "willfully violate" the orders could face a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

However, Gov. Walz told reporters Wednesday night he acknowledges that gatherings inside people's homes are largely unenforceable, noting that the ban on social gatherings is a way to inform the public about what's risky and what they can do to help control the spread of the virus at a time when cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing.

"I'm not going into someone's house on Thanksgiving, but here's the thing, if you're dining with a whole bunch of people not in your family on Thanksgiving, you're really speaking volumes about what the values are here in Minnesota," Walz said. "And I know it's hard, it's hard for me. So, once again, I'm just asking people – we know this works, we know it can make a difference and we need to do it."

Note: While social gatherings with people outside your household are prohibited, that doesn't include those who are caring for others (humans and pets), attending support groups, conducting business, and moving or relocating, among other situations (see them all here).

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