Gov. Tim Walz has issued a plea for Minnesotans to "double down" on their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 as the fall arrives.
In a statement on Thursday, the Walz Administration says that Minnesotans should "remain vigilant" about the virus, particularly when it comes to private gatherings such as parties, weddings and funerals.
Positive cases have been rising since a lull in July, partly – but not completely – explained by an increase in testing, and while hospitalizations and ICU is down to the lowest level in months, there has been a slight rise in recent weeks in deaths from the virus.
Minnesota's positivity rate is currently above the 5% threshold the CDC recommends for keeping businesses safely open.
This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious diseases expert, noted that the Midwest is emerging as a problem area, and identified seven states – among them Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota – that need to be on "high alert" entering Labor Day weekend after spikes in cases.
Minnesota wasn't among those states as its COVID-19 case rate isn't rising as quickly as in neighboring states, but White House advisor Dr. Deborah Birx expressed concern this week that parts of the state – particularly rural areas – are not observing COVID-19 safety measures as well as others, and suggested Minnesota could be approaching a "tipping point" for a spike in cases that has been seen in other states.
On Thursday, Walz asked Minnesotans to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing, and re-think gatherings with people outside of their immediate household, as community transmission of the virus in Minnesota continues to be "high and sustained."
Health commissioner Jan Malcolm says the most recent wave is coming mainly from "a variety of social gatherings," both formal and informal private social activity that is "fueling the numbers." This compares to the original outbreak between March and May, where much of the spread occurred in long-term care facilities and businesses such as meat-packing plants.
"As we head into the fall and the long winter ahead, we must double down in our fight to combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “We must all do our part to slow the spread, protect our communities, and keep our businesses open. I know it is hard, but Minnesotans are resilient people. We must dig deep, stay strong, and hold the virus at bay."
“I know it is incredibly difficult to not hug your grandparents. It can be awkward to ask your friends to wear a mask. It’s a hassle to keep sanitizing your hands. But just because you’re over the pandemic, doesn’t mean it’s over you,” said Lt. Governor Flanagan. “As the weather grows colder and we approach flu season, it is more important than ever that we take strict precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.”