Minnesota will go into its second partial economic shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday, and Gov. Tim Walz said he's hopeful that by the time the four-week lockdown is over there will be Minnesotans receiving a vaccine for the disease that has killed more than 3,000 Minnesotans.
"We are at a critical point and it's time for us to do it again," Walz said of the shutdown, which bans indoor service at bars and restaurants, closes fitness centers, halts youth and high school sports and even goes as far as to ban people from gathering with non-household members.
"The curve and the infection rate is exponentially going off the chart," said Walz, predicting that Minnesota will reach 300,000 cases by the end of the month and then continue to sprint towards 400,000 and 500,000 cases.
"The ground is literally shifting under our feet," he said. "What we see is when people are infected, we see infection rates go up. What follows that, almost with certainty, at about a two- to three-week time period is increased hospitalizations."
ICU admissions and deaths follow hospitalizations like "clockwork," Walz added.
The primary reason for the shutdown is to keep healthcare workers safe, which has proved to be a more critical element of fighting the pandemic than simply having open hospital medical/surgical and ICU beds. If a trained nurse isn't available, the beds are useless.
The graphic to the right 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.
"COVID-19 is filling a third of those beds. In some places, half of them," Walz said. "It's not just the metro. It's across the system."
Walz blamed the surge in new cases on "thousands of micr-spreader events," adding that "our healthcare systems could potentially be overrun."
The governor, who has face applause and criticism for enacting a lockdown during the spring, argued that the first shutdown bought Minnesota time then and doing it again now it critical.
"It made all the difference in the world, to quite literally hundreds if not thousands of Minnesotans who did not get sick and did not die," he said.
"The virus did stay under control and national folks were wondering, 'why did Minnesota stay at below 5% (positivity rate)?'" said Walz. "Many of you did what needed to be done. But it's here now."
Walz preached that shutting down places of known outbreaks, like bars, restaurants, sports and fitness centers, is "a sacrifice we need to make" because failing to take such drastic measures will "certainly put our hospitals at risk."
To business owners who fear they won't make it out of the next four weeks still standing, Walz ushered the blame on the federal government's lack of action in passing a stimulus bill to help laid off workers and struggling businesses.
"I'm asking you to do something that should have never been asked of you to do again," he said. "We need our federal partners to step up and provide the relief that's necessary. You are doing a public service that never should've been asked of you."
Walz believes the shutdown will help Minnesota again bend the curve "just in time for when a vaccine is coming." Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has completed its Phase 3 trial, though it has not been independently reviewed, nor has it yet to receive approval by the FDA for emergency distribution.
If the vaccine is permitted, Pfizer says it can distribute 50 million doses by the end of the year. Walz believes people in Minnesota will be receiving a vaccine before the end of the four-week shutdown, namely healthcare workers and vulnerable people in long-term care facilities.
Pfizer then hopes to provide a further 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.
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.