Governor Walz Extends Some Business Restrictions Until Jan. 11, Elementary Schools Can Opt to Resume In-Person Learning Jan. 18
Governor Walz Announces Next Steps on Restrictions to Combat COVID-19
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has announced a loosening of some restrictions while an extension of others in the battle against COVID-19. You can watch the full briefing here.
Here’s the governor’s complete executive order, announced Wednesday. Here are some highlights:
Elementary Schools Can Choose to Resume In-person Learning Jan. 18
- Governor Walz updated the Safe Learning Plan so that starting on Jan. 18, 2021, every elementary school across the state may choose to operate in an in-person learning model as long as they are able to implement additional mitigation strategies.
- Mitigation strategies include providing and requiring staff to wear a face shield and mask and offering regular testing.
- “Based on Minnesota’s evolving understanding of the virus, young kids are believed to be less susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19,” a press release from the governor’s office read. “The state has also learned more about how to reduce the potential for spread in schools from success in other settings.”
- A move from distance to hybrid or in-person learning will require a “rolling start,” said Department of Education officials, with no more than three grade levels coming back to the building for the first two weeks.
- (For example: a school might bring back kindergarten, first- and second-graders during the last two weeks of January, with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders joining them in February.)
Bars & Restaurants
- Bars and restaurants will still not be allowed indoor dining. The new restrictions extend through Jan. 11. (The current restrictions on indoor dining expire Friday).
- Bars and restaurants will be allowed to resume outdoor service, but it will be limited to 50% capacity, or 100 customers. A 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants applies here, and only four people allowed at a table and tables must be at least 6 feet apart.
- Outdoor tents are okay as long as two walls are missing. “Igloo-like” structures seen popping up across country not allowed
- Governor Walz acknowledged “this action is by no means a solution for the industry as a whole. Rather, it is a recognition that some establishments – particularly breweries – have put significant work into making outdoor service possible and this may prove helpful to some.”
- Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that “we do know from national, international data that these just by their nature [are] higher-risk environments.” She added, “It doesn’t mean to suggest that businesses are doing a bad job.”
- In a statement to CCX News, Minnesota License Beverage Association Executive Director Tony Chesak said “Today’s news is not only devastating, it’s shameful and unjust.” Chesak added, “Minnesota’s hospitality industry has complied in good faith with mask mandates, limited service, and yet has only seen 1.76% of COVID cases tracked back to bars and restaurants. The data driving the decisions is not transparent to the public and isn’t being used to make our collective actions smarter or safer for all involved.”
- Chesak also said “The paltry offering of limited outdoor dining in the middle of a Minnesota winter doesn’t even begin to make up for the forced closures. While Governor Walz’s dials turn, more and more of Minnesota’s restaurants and bars will be forced turn their lights off permanently.”
Gyms and Fitness Centers
- Gyms and fitness studios can reopen at 25% capacity, with a 100-person limit.
- People must wear masks and maintain 12 feet of social distancing.
- Additional guidance about group classes, which can begin January 4, will be forthcoming.
- Outdoor entertainment venues allowed 25% capacity, up to 100 people at a time.
- If food and drink are served, all must be seated.
- Inside entertainment venues, event spaces, and similar establishments remain closed until Jan. 11.
- This includes movie theaters, trampoline and adventure parks, museums and bowling alleys.
Youth & Adult Sports
- Youth sports can resume practice Jan. 4, but not games.
- Additional guidance regarding the resumption of practices will be forthcoming.
- Additionally, organized sports activity is no longer directly tied to county case data or school learning model.
- Adult organized sports teams cannot hold in-person activities.
- Indoor gatherings are not recommended, but Minnesotans may gather inside with one other household up to 10 people.
- If outside, social gatherings may include up to two additional households (three total) with a maximum of 15 people, starting Dec. 19. Masking and social distancing is strongly encouraged.
$216 Million Business Relief Package
- State lawmakers approved a $216 million economic relief package for small businesses that includes $88 million in direct payments to restaurants, bars and gyms. Also, $14 million will go to convention centers and movie theaters.
- $114.8 million will go to counties, which will distribute the funds for local economically significant businesses and organizations, including nonprofits.
- Walz says legislative package was a “true compromise,” among DFL, Republican leaders.
Latest COVID-19 Data
- In Minnesota, there are 386,412 total confirmed cases (up 2,279)
- The 2,000-plus cases continue declining trend over past week.
- 7-day case case positivity rate is 10.4%, lowest since Oct. 28, according to state’s data dashboard.
- Of the 386,412 cases, 356,384 (92%) are no longer considered infectious
- In Minnesota, there are 4,575 total deaths (up 92)
- Of the 92 newly reported deaths, 54 were in long-term care/assisted living facilities
- “I am worried. I am worried about the next few weeks as the end of the year approaches. And I continue to worry about the strain on our staff,” said Dr. Kenneth Holmen, president and CEO of CentraCare, at Wednesday’s press conference.
- Dr. Kevin Croston, CEO of Robbinsdale-based North Memorial Health in a statement to CCX News: “As a Level I Trauma Center, we do crisis really well. But the reality is, our people and our facilities are stressed and becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19. We need you to step up as part of our connected health family to help control the spread. We are asking you to find different ways to celebrate this holiday season so that we can all have many future holidays together.”
Q&A Session and Notes:
- Walz says allowing restaurants and bars to open in limited outdoor capacity in middle on winter was on behalf of request from the state’s microbrew industry.
- On those restaurants/bars that plan to defy order. Walz says owners of those establishments who are desperate to open “doesn’t make them bad people.” Says he understands they’re hurting, but says mitigation measure meant to reduce stress on hospitals. “It’s nobody’s intention to arrest someone,” said Walz.
- On requiring face shields and masks for teachers: Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says it has worked for meat processing plants to reduce spread.
- For restaurants and bars, outdoor tents are okay as long as two walls are missing, said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. Grove said he knows that for “99.5% of the businesses, this will not be an option.”
- On disagreement over data points within hospitality industry — Malcolm: disagreement comes over primary cases. Cases that result from primary cases is where the problem lies. “One primary case can lead to 70 cases,” said Malcolm.
- “We think it is contributing,” said Malcolm on bars and restaurants leading to COVID-19 cases. “Nobody is saying it’s the sole cause.”
- “Predictability of the environment” also plays a role in decisionmaking for executive order, said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove.
- Governor says state in good shape capacity wise for testing. Dr. Heather Mueller, deputy commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Education, says there’s planning to provide testing every other week to education staff.