Gov. Tim Walz will announce on Wednesday a loosening of restrictions on indoor dining, which has been shut down since Nov. 18 due to COVID-19.
Walz had hinted on New Year's Day that he would announce his decision to the current COVID restrictions this week, and confirmed this in a Monday evening statement via his spokesperson Teddy Tschann.
"As COVID-19 numbers improve following the pause on activities around the holidays, Governor Walz will address Minnesotans live on Wednesday at 2:00pm to announce a loosening of restrictions on indoor dining and other settings," Tschann said.
The restrictions on dine-in service were implemented in mid-November amid surging cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, reaching the worst point yet at the end of that month.
- South Dakota: Peaked at 686 Nov. 10; now at 296
- North Dakota: Peaked at 558 Nov. 14; now at 129
- Iowa: Peaked at 480 Nov. 19; now at 183
- Wisconsin: Peaked at 391 Nov. 17; now at 175
- Minnesota: Peaked at 326 Nov. 30; now at 159
Since then, cases and hospitalizations have declined, with the state's hospitals having more space to handle cases than in late November, when ICU capacity in some regions of the state almost reached capacity.
Walz loosened the shutdown restrictions as of Dec. 19, allowing restaurants and bars to open for outdoor dining – not much help during the Minnesota winter – and also allowing youth sports to resume as of today (Jan. 4) and gyms to reopen at limited capacity, and with a mask requirement at all times as of Dec. 20.
But the ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants, where agencies including the CDC believe there is a higher risk of transmission, remained in place, and is due to expire on Jan. 11.
It's now possible that this ban will end and indoor dining will be allowed to resume, though it remains to be seen at what level restaurants and bars will be limited in terms of their max capacities.
It also remains to be seen what "other settings" will see a loosening of restrictions.
Walz's latest order have seen more deliberate violations by businesses then ever before, coming after a period where federal support for virus-hit companies dried up, with the November ban implemented before the Minnesota Legislature could pass a support package, which it did in December.
The state is pursuing legal action and license suspensions against multiple bars and restaurants that opened in defiance of the shutdown, some of which also flouted other COVID-19 rules such as face mask requirements for customers and employees.