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Walz announces four-week dial back plan pausing in-person dining, gyms, social gatherings

The restrictions also impacts sports, including high school football and volleyball.

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions for four weeks, halting:

  • All in-person dining — both indoor and outdoor
  • All social gatherings with individuals outside your household
  • Organized sports — youth and adult
  • Gyms/fitness centers — including yoga, martial arts, dance studios
  • Recreation centers/public pools
  • Indoor entertainment venues
  • Weddings receptions/private parties

In a press release Wednesday evening, Governor Tim Walz announced a four-week dial back plan to help control the spread of COVID-19, as case numbers surge across the state and country, and as many hospitals report nearing capacity. 

Walz is turning back the dial on in-person dining, sports, gyms and other social activities.

“Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19,” Gov. Walz said in the release. “This immense loss strikes at the heart of our state. We are at a breaking point. As hospitals near the crisis of turning away new patients, continuing as things are is simply not sustainable. The actions announced today will help prevent more families from losing a loved one and ensure our hospitals can treat those who fall ill. While these actions mean incredible hardship for many, they are the fastest way to recover our economy, keep our kids in school, and get back to the activities we love.”

The new restrictions halt all in-person dining both indoor and outdoor gyms, wedding receptions/private parties, organized sports youth and adult indoor entertainment, public pools/recreation centers and any social gathering with individuals outside of your household.

The restrictions will take effect Friday, Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m. and last until Friday, Dec. 18.

According to the governor's announcement, retail businesses, salons and places of worship will remain open with proper precautions in place. Childcare will also remain open and schools will continue to operate under the Safe Learning Plan

“I know the upcoming holidays make it incredibly difficult to stay home and stay apart, but this is how we keep the people we love safe and healthy,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan in a release. “Take it from me, no celebration is worth an empty seat that will never be filled. This dial back will help us do everything we can to make sure our tables are full next year.”

In a public address Wednesday evening, Walz said Minnesota is expected to reach 300,000 confirmed cases by next week, marking an increase of 100,000 cases in less than three weeks.

"Over just the last several weeks, we went from being in a situation we could contain and our hospitals were not overwhelmed and we were not seeing the community spread rate (compared) to the situation you're looking at now," Walz said.

Walz went on to discuss the shortage of critical care beds across the state. According to health officials, northeast Minnesota, central Minnesota, southeast Minnesota and the metro are all using 90% or more of their critical care beds.

In a conference call with reporters following his public address, Walz called on the federal government to approve financial aid for businesses and unemployment.

"This is the federal government's major responsibility and they have failed at it," said Walz. "I don't care whether it's the current administration or the incoming, new administration, Congress needs to figure out how to make sure that that aid gets there."

Walz wrote a letter to Congressional leaders on Wednesday asking for more federal funding to help the economy and to provide more resources for healthcare workers.

Hospitality Minnesota responded to reports of these restrictions in a written statement requesting the state offer financial support to the industry.

"Today’s action will push many small restaurants, food service and other hospitality businesses over the cliff," the statement read. "Hospitality Minnesota is calling for immediate financial assistance from the state or these businesses will not be here in four weeks. The vast majority of hospitality businesses have taken every step asked of them by the state throughout the pandemic, resulting in significant financial investments in new equipment and PPE as revenue plummeted. They have done this in order to survive, keep people employed and continue contributing to our economy. We call on state leaders to act immediately to provide significant state financial aid to this devastated industry; we cannot wait for the feds to act in February or beyond."

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association also weighed in on the anticipated restrictions for bars and restaurants, calling the news of Walz's action "heartbreaking."

"It will most certainly mean significant increased unemployment and further permanent loss of our bars and restaurants across Minnesota," said MLBA Executive Director Tony Chesak. "Bars and restaurant leaders and staff are heading into a bleak holiday season with little to no support from our elected leaders. The state and federal government both need to take steps to aid employees and the hospitality industry with relaxed regulations, direct financial support, unemployment assistance, and loans to get through this dark winter. ‘In this together’ can’t be merely a slogan or our state will see devastating economic fallout on the other end of the pandemic.”

The Minnesota Department of Health says COVID-19 spread associated with restaurants and bars has accelerated recently. According to data, as of Monday, 190 restaurants/bars across the state reported outbreaks resulting in 3,201 cases. Those numbers have increased since Thursday, when 139 establishments reported outbreaks, accounting for 2,766 cases.

As for gyms, the number of cases has risen from 712 to 747 since Nov. 5, while salons, which aren't expected to be closed in Wednesday evening's address, only reported one additional case in that same time span. As of Monday, salons have been associated with 41 confirmed cases.

“Minnesota business leaders have been doing everything they can to keep businesses and workplaces safe as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we’re in a precarious position that’s now more urgent than ever before,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove in a statement. “That’s why we must collectively take action to slow the spread of the virus – the health and well-being of Minnesotans, and our state’s jobs and economy, depend on it.”

According to the Minnesota Health Department, in sports of all ages, there have been 46 hockey-related outbreaks, 41 in volleyball, 35 in football, 20 in basketball and 15 in soccer. Data shows that 6,375 confirmed cases have been connected to sports, including 985 new cases this week.

Many parents and coaches are worried about the well-being of their kids without having sports.

"My bigger concerns with them is just their mental health," said Jason Sprague.

"Parents are worried what's that going to do for my kid emotionally, psychologically, where are they going to be at, how do we entertain them, what do we do?" said Ross Carlson.

As high school football playoffs kicked off Tuesday, close to 80 teams didn't play because of COVID-19. That includes Maple Grove, where Tonya Westphal's family is disappointed.

"We were doing really well, and so to not have a playoff season is really disappointing," Westphal said.

Now, playoffs for all teams will come to an early end.

Minnesota Republican Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan released a statement ahead of the governor's announcement criticizing Walz's restrictions on youth sports, calling it "probably the worst decision Walz has made throughout the pandemic."

"Governor Tim Walz’s unilateral decisions to shut down our economy again is disconcerting, especially as we enter the holiday season," the statement reads. "This has already been a difficult year for Minnesota’s small businesses and Governor Walz is not even giving them a fighting chance.

"Shutting down youth sports is probably the worst decision Walz has made throughout the pandemic. The data shows that youth sports aren't responsible for the spread of the virus. Given the mess that public schools are in right now, sports is the only normal thing that a lot of kids have in their lives. This decision will set off a cascade of unintended consequences for an entire generation of Minnesotans."

COVID-19 cases have hit record levels in recent days in Minnesota, and data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows hospitalizations have also reached record levels, with 1,669 total hospitalizations as of Monday, including 346 patients in intensive care beds.

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