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Gov. Tim Walz Announces New COVID-19 Restrictions, Earlier Restaurant And Bar Closing Times

-Originally published on Tuesday, Nov. 10-

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Gov. Tim Walz has announced new restrictions that target active spreaders of COVID-19 in an effort to bring the coronavirus under control, that will affect everything from bars and restaurants to family Thanksgiving plans.

"I feel like the guy in 'Footloose,' no dancing, no fun, no whatever. That is not my intention. My intention is to keep you safe so you can all dance a lot longer, and that our neighbors don't put them at risk. But I recognize this is painful, it's no fun," Walz said Tuesday.

Walz said that the numbers are now growing exponentially in Minnesota, and that high deaths and hospitalizations are a predictable outcome if cases continue to grow in this manner.

"I wish I could say that this was unexpected, but it's not," Walz said. "I said back in March it would be a long, dark winter and that looks like what we're headed into."

Starting Friday, all bars and restaurants have to close dine-in service at 10 p.m and stay closed until 4 a.m. Indoor capacity is to be capped at 150 people, and may not exceed 50% capacity. Bar counter service is also going to be shut down, except at places that only offer counter service.

"Since the beginning of this pandemic, we've asked Minnesotans to make unprecedented sacrifices for the greater good. And they've done it. Because when times are tough, Minnesotans pull together," Walz said. "Each step of the way, we've followed the best data available. These targeted, science-based actions will help get the spread of the virus under control so that we can care for those who fall ill, get our kids in the classroom, keep our businesses open, and get back to the activities we love."

There is also a 10-person limit going into effect for all indoor and outdoor gatherings, and all social gatherings are limited to members of three households or less.

Capacity limits are also going into place on weddings, funerals, and other similar events, ultimately leading to a cap of 25 people total on Dec. 11. (They'll be capped at 50 on Nov. 27.) Also, wedding receptions are also required to shut down at 10 p.m. just like bars and restaurants.

Walz pointed out that over 70% of COVID-19 outbreaks in Minnesota from June to November have been linked to weddings, private social gatherings, and late nights at bars and restaurants.

As for Thanksgiving, Walz said he traditionally has 24 members of his extended family, but this year it will only be he, his wife and his two children. While technically violating parts of the order would be a misdemeanor, Walz said that there aren't going to be officers going door-to-door to check.

"We are not going to someone's home and arresting them on Thanksgiving," Walz said. "We're at the point on this where we crossed 10 million. Most projections show the spike here will be catastrophic throughout upper Midwest, and large portions of the country. I'm trying to get the information out to folks -- how do we get through the end of this?"

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The governor made it clear that strong restrictions are aimed at places and events frequented by younger people -- 18 to 35-year-olds -- who he says are a major source of the spread.

"Most bars and restaurants have done a great job responding to the pandemic and keeping their customers and employees safe. But this virus is spreading like wildfire, and every gathering place is now more dangerous than it was a month ago," he said. "Most young people are taking great precautions to protect themselves and their community."

Minnesota Department of Health data shows outbreaks in restaurants and bars are up dramatically in October and the first five days in November. Sixty-five outbreaks were traced to bars and restaurants, compared to 30 outbreaks in all of August and September.

RELATED: Free Saliva Testing Site Opening At Minneapolis Convention Center

Walz also announced on Tuesday a $10 million in small business relief grants, to support an additional 1,000 businesses statewide.

"Public health and our economic vitality are tied at the hip – we can't make the kind of meaningful progress we want to on economic recovery until we get this pandemic under control. It's also clear that taking no action at this point would do more long-term harm to our economy than if we do some targeted things today," Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. "Let's work together to get this right, Minnesota, so that we can end these regulations as soon as possible and get everyone back to work."

Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt responded to the announcement with the following statement:

"These restrictions are another hit to Minnesota bars and restaurants, many of whom have been doing everything the right way to protect the health and safety of their guests and employees. We're very concerned for the impact this will have these businesses owners and their hardworking employees heading into the winter months, especially with just a few days to plan for the new restrictions," Daudt said.

However, Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent praised the move.

"We have seen an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases over the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, Governor Walz is taking a measured and strategic approach that is based on data and which will ultimately help our businesses and schools stay open. The updated safety guidelines around social gatherings, bars, and restaurants will not only help us control the spread of COVID-19, it also takes into account our state's economy and the personal well-being of Minnesotans," Kent said. "It's up to all of us to follow these safety measures and encourages others to do the same."

RELATED: Disease Expert Dr. Michael Osterholm Says We're In 'Darkest Days' Of Pandemic Until Vaccine Available Next Spring

Since June 10, when indoor dining resumed in Minnesota, MDH says there were 117 outbreaks at bars and restaurants, with at least 2,400 confirmed cases connected to those outbreaks. That's just under 2% of all cases since then.

The medical community endorsed Walz walking back to stricter rules, with the Minnesota Medical Association thanking him for the move.

"The governor's action will help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health and lives of all Minnesotans. We are seeing, firsthand, the rapid spike in COVID-19 cases. These are not just statistics, but rather these are our patients, health care professionals, our teachers, our family members, our fellow Minnesotans," MMA president Dr. Marilyn Peitso said.

Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, released this statement:

Governor Walz has not been streamlined in his response to COVID. When it suits his purposes he champions the data, when it doesn't fit his position, he ignores the data. We've watched for nearly nine months as he's taken advantage of his position to have it both ways and control all Minnesotan's lives.

It is unfortunate the Governor is ordering bars and restaurants to close at 10pm, why allow anything to be open at all? The impact of his decisions will single-handedly further destroy an industry that is already struggling to make ends meet. What happened to a free and fair nation where individuals are allowed to choose personal responsibility and do what works best and is most comfortable for them?

It is far past the time where the Governor should have rescinded his powers, rolled back this extreme government overreach and stopped abusing the powers of his office to work co-equally with all branches of our government to allow more voices in the room and options to be put out on the table.


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