Gov. Tim Walz has confirmed a four-week "pause" that will lead to the closure of dine-in service at bars and restaurants, the temporary shutdowns of gyms and fitness centers, weddings and private parties, entertainment venues, and a postponement of organized sports.
The measures announced Wednesday evening also involves the prohibition of in-person gatherings with people outside your household, coming just a week before Thanksgiving.
The announcement comes on a day that Minnesota posted a record 67 deaths from COVID-19, and with hospitalizations having now surged to more than 1,700 patients, death numbers could rise further in the coming weeks.
Here's a look at the restrictions, which go into effect from 11:59 p.m. Friday until Friday, Dec. 18:
- Four-week "pause" on indoor dining, gyms and fitness centers, martial arts, yoga and dance studios, indoor entertainment venues, public pools and rec centers.
- Same pause on wedding receptions, celebrations, and private parties.
- In-person social gatherings with people outside your own household are prohibited.
- Organized youth and adult sports – whether indoor or outdoor – are also paused.
- Retail businesses, salons, and places of worship may remain open, as is childcare, and schools will stay operational under the existing Safe Learning Plan.
“Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19,” Governor 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. 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.”
There will be a wider impact on Minnesota businesses and workers, who now face the prospect of four weeks with reduced or loss of income, and still no sign of an income support deal being struck in Congress, though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inviting him to renewed negotiations on a stimulus bill.
Bars and restaurants will have to shift back to the takeout-only model as was the case during the initial Stay at Home order in the spring.
There have been calls for Walz and the state legislature to take action to provide assistance to affected businesses and workers.
The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association issued a statement saying the shutdown will lead to a loss of jobs and the permanent shutdown of restaurants and bars that have already been hit by the pandemic.
"The state and federal government both need to take steps to aid employees and the hospitality with relaxed regulations, direct financial support, unemployment assistance, and loans to get through this dark winter," it said.
It also called on Minnesotans to support restaurants and bars by buying takeout and gift cards over the next month.
Among those suggesting measures are Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) who suggests the state should use its remaining $22 million of CARES ACT funding for use by impacted businesses and workers, and allow all bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries to sell to-go alcohol in up to 64-oz containers.
He also wants sales tax payments to be waived or delayed.
Hospital capacity pressed in Minnesota
The graphic above shows where Minnesota hospitals are struggling to deal with the significant rise in patients who require inpatient care, namely critical care in an intensive care unit.
The northeast region has just seven available ICU beds, while there are only 11 open in the central region, 46 in the metro and 12 in the southeast region.
Minnesota has seen the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 spike in the past month, rising from 580 patients Oct. 24 to more than 1,700 through Nov. 17.