Walz delays announcement on business limits until Wednesday
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that while he’s encouraged by some coronavirus trends in Minnesota, he’s holding off until next week on deciding whether to dial back restrictions in time for the Christmas holiday because he wants to see more data on whether a feared spike in cases due to Thanksgiving really fizzled.
The governor plans an announcement next Wednesday on whether he’ll extend or relax any of the restrictions he imposed last month for a four-week “pause” that expires next Friday. They included the closure of bars, restaurants, fitness centers and other places where people gather, as well as high school and other organized youth sports.
The announcement was originally set for Monday, but Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said the governor pushed it back until Wednesday because he wants to have the most up-to-date data before deciding.
Walz said at a briefing for reporters that it looks like Minnesotans have been following pleas to follow the official coronavirus safety guidance, which includes wearing masks, social distancing, staying home when sick and avoiding indoor gatherings. The “pause” order took effect three weeks ago while Thanksgiving was two weeks ago, he noted.
“Now the question still out there is, ‘What did Thanksgiving do?’ And at this time, Minnesotans, I think that so many of you made those hard decisions. You did the Zoom Thanksgiving, and you talked from a distance. It looks like we’re making a difference,” Walz said.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 94 new COVID-19 deaths, the state’s second-highest one-day death toll for the pandemic, but some important metrics such as the positivity rate, new cases and hospitalizations have been trending downward recently. The trend in deaths tends to lag those other indicators because critically ill patients who succumb to COVID-19 don’t necessarily die right away. The new deaths raised the state’s total to 4,292, while the 3,773 new coronavirus cases reported Friday lifted the state’s cumulative count to 370,968.
On the more hopeful side, Minnesota had 1,461 patients hospitalized as of Thursday, down from a peak of 1,864 on Nov. 29. And the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Minnesota has fallen from 5,628 new cases per day on Nov. 26 to 4,799 as of Thursday, according to The Covid Tracking Project.
Walz said he’s trying to strike the proper balance between mitigation efforts and getting businesses back open and students back to school and playing sports. He said he wants to to see some more post-Thanksgiving data first.
Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday that his office had obtained a temporary restraining order to prohibit the Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks from remaining open for in-person in defiance of the governor’s order, which allows only takeout and delivery service through Friday.
The attorney general’s office said the lawsuit was only the second enforcement action it has brought under the “pause” order. But a Facebook group called the ReOpen Minnesota Coalition has been urging bars, restaurants and other businesses to defy the order and reopen next week. It says more than 50 already plan to do so, though it hasn’t posted a list.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections on Friday said two more state prisoners have died of COVID-19. The department said the inmates — a 66-year-old from the prison at Faribault and a 63-year old man from the Moose Lake facility — died Thursday. They were the seventh and eighth inmates in the state prison system to die from COVID-19.