The state-ordered four-week "pause" aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 appears to be working, Gov. Tim Walz suggested on Friday.
"It looks like, and again we don't want to get ahead of ourselves – we're on day 16 since Thanksgiving. We are on day 21 of our pause – we are looking at that there are some decreases, and fairly significant, on case positivity," Walz said during a briefing with state healthcare workers on Friday afternoon.
Friday's positivity rate was about 6.5%, Walz said, which is about where the positivity rate was in September and October before the second surge in cases, as well as spikes in hospitalizations and deaths, began in November.
"Now the question still out there is, 'What did Thanksgiving do?'" Walz said. "And at this time, Minnesotans, it looks like so many of you made those hard decisions and you did the Zoom Thanksgiving and you talked from a distance.
"It looks like we're making a difference," the governor added.
Walz said although the positivity rate is lower and a vaccine is on the way (the first Minnesotans could get the vaccine as early as Dec. 20-21, he said), it's still important to "strike the proper balance around mitigation, whether it's in our businesses or youth sports or getting our kids back in school."
"I think we're going to need a little bit more time to get this right," Walz said.
Walz ordered a four-week "pause" that put restrictions on youth sports, bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 after weeks of increasing case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths.
The ban went into effect on Nov. 21 and is set to end on Dec. 18. Walz said earlier this week he'll announce Monday on whether the pause will be extended.
In the meantime, Walz and state health officials are trying to gather the data that's coming in post-Thanksgiving and from the four-week pause, noting there is still another week of it left.
"We've seen in these first three weeks, as I said, I think some significant change," Walz said, adding, "It looks like we're coming over the top of that peak. The question will be how much we come over the top in the next seven days."
However, the governor stressed that it's difficult to attribute lower case numbers to just the mitigation measures because some people see numbers spike and moderate their own behavior.
"Between the vaccines and the lower positivity rate, it can appear in the general public 'Well what's the big deal, things are going back good,' but that lag period is all focused on hospitalizations, deaths and the pressure on the systems and that's the thing many of us don't see," Walz said.
The governor said from the beginning it's been a challenge to strike the proper balance between health, health protocols and not overwhelming the healthcare systems, which is short-staffed, stressed and overworked.