Bars and restaurants, wedding receptions and social gatherings are the targets of new restrictions Gov. Tim Walz announced last week.
"We are in the midst of a significant surge," Walz said, citing rising COVID-19 case numbers.
Minnesota has seen about 224,000 cases and 2,961 deaths since the outbreak began. State health officials announced 7,553 new cases Monday morning at 8,689 the day before. Recent death counts are regularly in the double digits, according to state data.
Walz said that during previous national spikes, Minnesota was able to maintain lower infection rates than other states due to safety measures taken by residents. But during the most recent outbreak, data shows Minnesota is trending in a manner similar to other hot spots.
"That type of spread will continue unless we take mitigation measures," Walz said.
Taking measures now, he argued, will make sure there are sufficient hospital beds to deal with COVID and other illnesses, such as during the upcoming flu season, and keep the state ahead of staffing concerns as health workers become infected.
The venues targeted in the determination are meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 where it is most often transmitted. Since June, 71 percent of spreading cases have been at private social gatherings, weddings, funerals, restaurants and bars. Risk factors identified include gatherings of friends and family who are comfortable with each other, but live in different households, eating and drinking without face coverings for an extended period of time, and gatherings where people talk loudly, laugh or sing, especially with alcohol.
Walz noted that while Minnesotans age 18-35 have taken proactive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they appear to be the age group most commonly infected as many do not show symptoms and are contagious. Such individuals are at high risk of passing COVID-19 to vulnerable groups, and are the most frequent visitors to bars and restaurants.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
Starting 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, bars and restaurants may not exceed 50 percent capacity and all indoor capacity is capped at 150 people. Dine-in service is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Bar counter service is not permitted unless that is the only place for service.
Walz acknowledged bars and restaurants have already sacrificed much due to COVID-19, and encouraged Minnesotans to support those businesses.
"This is going to be painful for them," he said.
He is proposing $10 million in small business relief.
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove said the precautions are necessary for the economy in the long term.
"We can't begin economic recovery in a real sense until we get this pandemic under control," he said.
A 50-person limit will be placed on wedding and funeral receptions, and similar events, starting Nov. 27. The limit will shift to 25 people on Dec. 11.
"The data shows a bunch of our outbreaks are coming from these types of activities," Walz said.
He said there will be no change to weddings and funerals, as the data shows those events have not caused significant problems.
A 10-person limit will be placed on indoor and outdoor private gatherings as of 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13. All social gatherings will be limited to members of three households or fewer.
Hutchinson Police have taken an education first position when it comes to the enforcement of previous state mandates, and Police Chief Tom Gifferson said Tuesday that trend would continue.
"When that 10 p.m. mandate comes to shut down the bars and restaurants, we'll probably take a little bit more of an active enforcement role by reminding them to be closed," he said. "And if they flat out refuse to close, we'd probably take some more enforcement action at that time."
Police will also have rules to enforce when it comes to private gatherings.
"In my mind, if we get called to a home where they are having a social gathering or a party, and clearly there are more people than there should be, and it's not Thanksgiving dinner or something like that, we'll probably take some action," Gifferson said. "But it's not our role to go in an tell people they can't have the fourth child over for Thanksgiving or something like that."
In a press release, Minnesota Medical Association President Marilyn Peitso said, "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."
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt was less pleased with the announcement.
"These restrictions are another hit to Minnesota bars and restaurants," he said in a statement, "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."