Gov. Tim Walz is set to announce changes to his "pause" preventing certain businesses from opening in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The governor will give a press conference at 1:15 p.m. in which he will announce an extension of the pause for bars and restaurants, which will not be able to reopen for dine-in service until after the holidays.
However, it's emerging that the governor will announce that outdoor service at bars and restaurants can resume as soon as Saturday.
And in exchange for the continued shutdown of bars and restaurants, Walz is expected to announce a "strategy" that focuses on reopening elementary schools for in-person learning.
What's more, MPR's Brian Bakst is reporting that the governor is set to allow gyms and health clubs to reopen Saturday with added safety precautions – namely mandatory mask-wearing even when exercising – and youth sports practices can restart Jan. 4.
Walz is also expected to announce new guidance for social gatherings, an announcement that will come during Hanukkah and just over a week before Christmas. The Morning Take newsletter from WCCO-AM's Blois Olson suggests there will be a "moderate loosening" of social gathering guidance.
KSTP's Tom Hauser then reported this will see gathering limits expanded to 15 people from three different households.
With regards to the reopening of elementary schools, the Pioneer Press reports that research is increasingly showing that children under the age of 10 are less likely to become ill with COVID-19, and less likely to infect others.
It cited the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who said on a recent podcast that he thinks elementary schools can safely reopen, but not junior high or high schools.
On the flipside, indoor gatherings such as those at bars are considered to present a higher risk of transmission, per the CDC. As of mid-November, more than 2,700 "primary" cases of COVID-19 had been traced back to bars or restaurants in Minnesota.
This may small in the context of the more than 384,000 positive cases in Minnesota as of Dec. 14, but as the Minnesota Department of Health has only been able to determine "primary" cases, it doesn't take into account the secondary and tertiary levels of transmission when someone infected at a bar goes on to effect others.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that by the time an infection reaches a fourth-round of transmission, a single infected person may well be responsible for infecting as many as 70 others.
Nonetheless, Minnesota's hospitality industry has suffered tremendously under COVID-19, though some help is on the way after the Minnesota Legislature Monday passed a bill providing $216 million in support for small businesses hit by the shutdown.