Gov. Tim Walz made another plea to Minnesotans to follow COVID-19 mitigation guidelines in an impassioned and at-times exasperated speech on Monday afternoon.
Minnesota is facing a worsening crisis as case numbers continue to surge, with the state's already near-capacity hospitals expected to come under even greater pressure in the coming weeks.
As he addressed Minnesotans, Walz expressed unhappiness that the fight against COVID-19 has become – and remains – politicized, and made an appeal to those who may have previously railed against his administration's restrictions to take steps to preserve their health.
He said that mask compliance in Minnesota is only at about 70%.
"Wear your mask and stay healthy if for no other reason that'll keep you healthy to vote against me in two years," Walz said. "If that's what it takes, just keep yourself healthy."
In recent weeks, Walz has played down the possibility of returning to the restrictions seen earlier in the year, in part because a considerable portion of the state's population are unlikely to follow them, and also because there are no similar restrictions in place in neighboring states where the virus is even more widespread.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that there may yet be more tightening of restrictions given the current situation, with Walz noting that even if COVID-19 cases were to fall to zero from tomorrow, the state's hospital system is still facing huge pressure over the next month because of the massive spike in cases seen over the past two weeks.
Many of the restrictions he has imposed have been criticized by the Minnesota GOP, but Walz says they have all been based on consultations with "apolitical" health experts, and he expressed regret that what is a public health crisis has become an ideological debate.
"Healthy skepticism of your elected officials is absolutely critical, but the idea right now that we're fighting against proven mitigation efforts and letting the virus win is simply unacceptable and we can do better," he said.
Walz called on Minnesota to show the "togetherness" he says the state is known for, saying: "There is light at the end of the tunnel (referring to Moderna, Pfizer vaccines) ... we just need to get all of our neighbors to the end of the tunnel.
"By many measures we do things very well because we care about our neighbors.
"I tell you now as we enter the hardest part of the pandemic and the most dangerous part of the pandemic, before we get to that light of the tunnel, we're going to have to rely on that most basic thing: that we're all in this together.
"If we continue to mask up, if you continue to distance ... we can reduce the pressure on the healthcare workers, on the daycare providers and on our teachers."=
These mitigation efforts will include avoiding your typical Thanksgiving gathering, with Malcolm saying on Monday that the state's previous guidance to limit social gatherings to a maximum of 10 people from 3 different households is no longer "safe," and she is instead asking Minnesotans to skip Thanksgiving gatherings outside of their own household altogether.