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Despite falling cases, Walz has no plans to lift business restrictions early

The governor says the bar and restaurant order will remain in place until Jan. 10.
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Governor Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz says he's not likely to lift business restrictions he extended last week early despite a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Minnesota has seen all of its major COVID-19 metrics decline since the peak on Nov. 30, prompting questions during a Tuesday press conference whether the temporary shutdown of dine-in service at bars and restaurants will continue.

Walz last week extended the ban to Jan. 10, but did loosen other restrictions to allow gyms to reopen at limited capacity, and youth sports practice to resume on Jan. 4.

But Walz said that he wants to wait longer to see whether the drop in COVID-19 is here to stay, given that the levels being seen now remains higher than at any point of the pandemic prior to mid-October.

"We’re looking to make sure a few days does constitute a pattern," he said Tuesday, adding that he recognizes the impact this is having on the hospitality industry particularly.

"I am as sick of this — COVID-19 — as anybody in the state," he added. "But we cannot give up. I cannot do the easy thing. I have to do the thing that makes a difference.”

Neighboring states have seen similar declines in cases and hospitalizations despite having fewer restrictions on businesses, suggesting a declining trend across all of the Upper Midwest. That said, Wisconsin did just report a record 120 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

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But Walz is adamant that the shutdown measures he introduced on Nov. 18 are having an effect, and this is borne out by similar measures taken in other countries – most notably in the past week the U.K. – in response to major spikes in infections and hospitalizations.

“The idea that if we didn’t do anything we would end up in the same spot anyway is simply not proven out around the world,” he said.

Another element to his decision is that he has imposed the latest restrictions with a view to getting the virus to a point that elementary schools can reopen more safely for in-person teaching in January.

The state has already said schools can do so next month, citing research that suggests the virus isn't contracted or transmitted as easily among under 10s, though some – such as St. Paul Public Schools – are waiting until February to reopen.

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