Gov. Tim Walz has announced a four-week pause on social activities, in-person dining, sports, and fitness establishment visits as a state response to the deepening COVID-19 pandemic.
Bars and restaurants will still be allowed to offer takeout during a four-week pause.
The new restrictions become effective this Friday, Nov. 20.
The closures come days after the governor implemented a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants and put restrictions on bar seating and games.
“Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19,” Walz said in a statement released prior to a statewide address scheduled for 6 p.m.
He added: “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. 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, they are the fastest way to recover our economy, keep our kids in school, and get back to the activities we love.”
Beginning Friday, Nov. 20, at 11:59 p.m. and lasting until Friday, Dec. 18, in-person social gatherings with individuals outside the household are prohibited, bars and restaurants are dialed back to take-out and delivery service only, gyms, fitness studios, entertainment venues, event spaces, and similar establishments will need to close, and adult and youth sports are paused.
Retail businesses, salons, and places of worship may continue to operate with proper precautions in place.
Childcare 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. All other current restrictions also remain in effect.
“I know the upcoming holidays make it incredibly difficult to stay home and stay apart, but this is how we keep the people we love safe and healthy,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “Take it from me, no celebration is worth an empty seat that will never be filled. This dial back will help us do everything we can to make sure our tables are full next year.”
The pandemic has reached a concerning and dangerous phase throughout much of the Midwest this November. It took 29 weeks to reach 100,000 infections in Minnesota, and just six weeks after that to reach 200,000.
Sometime next week, less than three weeks after reaching 200,000 infections, Minnesota will reach 300,000 infections.
“Every day brings us closer to having safe and effective vaccines, but we must take action now to slow down the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in all corners of our state,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Our health care workers continue to work hard to provide care but we can’t afford to overwhelm them. Every Minnesotan needs to understand that they have a key role to play here. That means staying home and avoiding close contact with those outside your household. It means wearing a mask when you do need to go out in public. It means staying home when you’re not feeling well. It means getting tested when appropriate and isolating until you get the test results.”
To support small businesses that are struggling as they do their part to combat the spread of COVID-19, last week Walz announced an additional $10 million in Small Business Relief Grants.
This funding will support an additional 1,000 businesses that have applied for the grant program. It supplements hundreds of millions of dollars in small business support that Minnesota has allocated since the beginning of the pandemic.
With options at the state-level severely limited moving forward, the Governor is pushing the federal government for additional support. Minnesotans with questions about unemployment insurance are encouraged to visit uimn.org.
“Minnesota business leaders have been doing everything they can to keep businesses and workplaces safe as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we’re in a precarious position that’s now more urgent than ever before,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. “That’s why we must collectively take action to slow the spread of the virus – the health and well-being of Minnesotans, and our state’s jobs and economy, depend on it.”
Walz said the pandemic has been devastating, adding the state needs federal support to help keep businesses afloat, workers paid, and families with food on the table.
Executive Order 20-99 will have the full force and effect of law upon the approval of the Executive Council, which is made up of Walz, Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon, and State Auditor Julie Blaha.