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Walz: Announcement on fans at professional, high school sports coming in 'days'

Walz says the state will be more confident to share details on loosening restrictions later this spring.
Governor Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz plans to announce new COVID-19 guidance for professional sports teams in a "very short amount of time," as little as "days."

The governor said during a news conference Tuesday getting so many people 65 and older vaccinating so quickly has moved up his timeline for reopening businesses and allowing fans at sporting events, both professional and high school.

But, he said, the COVID-19 variants continue to complicate things and the state is trying to "balance this race on the vaccine versus a variant going up." 

The state on Tuesday reported 40 more cases of the B117 variant tied to a cluster in Carver County that's linked to youth sports and fitness facilities, Walz said, noting he's watching the variant data closely.

Walz stressed the importance of continuing to wear masks and get tested to ensure the data continues to trend in the right direction, calling a spike in the state's positivity rate on Tuesday an anomaly.

"We feel much more confident about giving guidance after say the first of April, but certainly the first of May or first of June," Walz said, adding they want people to know restrictions for this summer so people and large venues are able to plan for weddings, concerts, etc. 

Walz added, "We're going to know in the next month" or "3-4 weeks" where the state is headed with the pandemic and what type of restrictions will be in place come Aug. 1.

But determining where we're going to be in early April is trickier, with Walz citing a comparison University of Minnesota's Dr. Michael Osterholm made to a hurricane. Right now we're in the eye of the storm, and it could dissipate or it could worsen, and we should know soon. 

Walz said he spoke on Monday with the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota United about having fans at home games for their upcoming seasons (the United begins in March and the Twins home opener is April 8), acknowledging the teams need to know how many tickets they can sell to fans and the state wants to "give them that certainty" based on the science and economic impact. 

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"We need to get this out to them so they have time," Walz said, noting Dave St. Peter with the Twins asked for 30 days, which they're at. 

He also said it's important for them to figure out how to allow fans to watch the upcoming state high school tournaments, adding "We're trying to figure out how to do that as safely as possible [and] get that guidance out."

Meanwhile, Minnesota Republicans on Tuesday held a news conference to call on Walz to lift capacity restrictions and allow increased attendance at professional sporting events amid the decline in COVID cases across Minnesota, asking the governor to share this new guidance now and not wait. 

Republicans have been critical of the governor since the start of the pandemic for waiting too long to make announcements about business restrictions, saying it doesn't give businesses enough time to plan to reopen.

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