Gov. Tim Walz has once again issued a plea for Minnesotans to play their part in the fight against COVID-19 as the state deals with surging cases and hospitalizations that is putting immense pressure on the healthcare system.
Minnesota posted more than 5,500 new cases and 46 deaths – the second highest yet – on Friday, figures which could rise further in the coming weeks given the spike in cases seen in recent days.
In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios for Minnesota, Walz has repeated his appeal to Minnesotans to wear face masks, practice social distancing, regularly wash their hands, and avoid large social gatherings to limit the virus' spread.
He took a shot at those who were "making the case that this was over in the summer," a likely nod to some of Minnesota's Republicans who had argued as recently as late August that "there is no longer an emergency."
His appeal comes at a time when the pressure on the state's hospitals is reaching a worrying level, and said now is the crucial time for Minnesotans to play their part.
"If we're going to beat this thing, now is the time," he said during a Friday media briefing.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel. We know every day we get closer to the vaccine is another day we can fight through this thing and bring more people with us.
"We can control our destiny in this," he added. "We can choose to make those choices, we can choose to believe this is real."
Friday marks the start of new COVID-19 restrictions that will see bars and restaurants prevented from continuing service after 10 p.m.
Walz has played down the notion of re-introducing harsher lockdown measures, saying it's not suitable given the lack of national strategy and neighboring states such as the Dakotas keeping their economies open, meaning any lockdown in Minnesota could be undone by neighboring states.
Appeal ahead of Thanksgiving
Minnesota's health officials have issued guidance for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday that includes encouraging people to avoid travel where possible, spend Thanksgiving with members of their own household, and look to do lower-risk activities such as video chatting with family.
This week has seen Minnesota's 17-35 year olds encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 as people in this age group who have asymptomatic cases of the virus are among the primary drivers of the virus' spread.
Walz's appeal was backed by University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm, who said, "This is our COVID year," and asked people to hold on for just a few more months for a vaccine, the rollout of which is expected in the first half of 2021.
Of Thanksgiving, Osterholm said: "If you can't in the 14 days before you're going to come home ... make certain you're not exposed, you should find alternatives to celebrating Thanksgiving."
"If you can do it safely, do it. But I know there are going to be far too many tragic situations that come out of these holidays."