Walz cites increasing COVID-19 peril in Minnesota in announcing four-week halt to many activities
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, expressing alarm that the surging COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly dangerous in the state, declared Wednesday that the only way to stifle the spread is to halt many gatherings outside of people’s homes.
Thus, beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday through Friday, Dec. 18, the state will prohibit in-person social gatherings with individuals outside people’s households. In addition, bars and restaurants must dial back to take-out and delivery service only; gyms, fitness studios, entertainment venues, event spaces and similar establishments must close, and adult and youth sports must halt, Walz ordered during an address to Minnesotans.
Retail businesses, salons and places of worship will be allowed to continue operating, with proper precautions, he said.
Child care remains open. Schools will continue to operate under the Safe Learning Plan, which shifts between in-person, distance, and hybrid learning — depending on the local conditions of the virus, he said.
“The ground is shifting under our feet,” the governor said.
Walz said the state has prepared with a surge of its own, including 400 National Guard members on call to help triage cases, but mounting numbers of sick health-care workers are crippling the effort.
Those workers are not contracting COVID-19 in hospitals, Walz said during an address to Minnesotans, but when they go home and are subject to rampant community spread.
Available hospital beds are decreasing, but even when they are available, they are little help if health-care personnel cannot work, he said.
Walz lamented the “concerning and dangerous phase … in which it took 29 weeks to reach 100,000 infections in Minnesota, and just six weeks after that to reach 200,000.”
“Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19,” Walz said. “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.”
Sometime next week — less than three weeks after reaching 200,000 infections — Minnesota will reach 300,000 infections, he said.
The pandemic is hitting fire and police departments especially hard, decimating another phalanx of first responders, Walz said.
“To all Minnesotans who are struggling to get by, I know this pandemic is devastating,” Walz said. “This pandemic is not fair. We need federal support to help keep our businesses afloat, our workers paid, and our families with food on the table.
“I will continue to fight with every fiber of my being for that support that you need and deserve,” he said.
“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 (especially during the holidays), they are the fastest way to recover our economy, keep our kids in school, and get back to the activities we love,” Walz said.