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Gov. Walz On COVID 19 This Week

CORONAVIRUS 600022356Gov. Walz scales back some COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota Caps on indoor gatherings such as wedding receptions increased from 10 people up to 50. By Jeremy Olson Star Tribune FEBRUARY 12, 2021 — 1:20PM

ANTHONY SOUFFLE, STAR TRIBUNEGov. Tim Walz is scaling back restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 because pandemic stats are improving. TEXT SIZE EMAIL PRINT MOREGov. Tim Walz on Friday announced he would be scaling back some restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid improving state statistical indicators of the pandemic. The governor expanded numerical capacities of indoor private gatherings and celebrations, such as wedding receptions, from 10 people to 50, though facilities must still operate at only 25% of their fire code capacity. Similarly, restaurants can host 250 people if space permits, but must operate at no more than 50% of their capacity. Restaurants also can remain open until 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. "Our small businesses have made enormous sacrifices for the health of their employees and communities," Walz said. "Today, we can make these cautious, common sense adjustments to support them because of the progress we have made controlling the spread of COVID-19 and getting the most at-risk Minnesotans vaccinated." Walz's announcement came as the positivity rate of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 had dropped to 3.9% — below the state caution threshold of 5% and well below the 15.6% mark at the peak of the latest wave of the pandemic on Nov. 10. The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota also has fallen below the state's high-risk benchmark. Other changes include allowances for indoor entertainment venues, pools and gyms to host up to 250 people, but no more than 25% of their fire code capacity. They previously had been capped at 150 people. Outdoor fairs and events remain capped at 250 people. Walz's order encourages organizers to consider drive-through alternatives, which aren't subject to caps or restricted hours of food and beverage service. The governor's order stressed that Minnesota is "not out of the woods," especially with the threat of more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and that these changes come with an increased risk of viral transmission. A mask mandate for indoor public places and social distancing requirements remain in effect. The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 19 more COVID-19 deaths and 1,058 more diagnosed viral infections — bringing the state's totals to 6,362 deaths and 471,851 infections. Eighteen of the 19 reported deaths involved Minnesotans 65 or older, who have suffered 89% of the total COVID-19 deaths in the state and are prioritized to receive vaccines along with health care workers, long-term care residents and educators. The state on Friday reported continued progress in administering the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines — with 617,896 people receiving at least one dose and 189,902 of them completing the two-dose series. The state has now received access to 1.1 million total doses of federally controlled COVID-19 vaccine. An expected supply of 87,925 first doses next week is being distributed largely to health care providers. They will receive 39,625 doses to vaccinate senior citizens as well as any remaining health care workers. Another 9,700 doses will go to state vaccine sites in Minneapolis, Duluth and Rochester, which are whittling down a closed waiting list of more than 220,000 seniors seeking vaccine. Another 3,000 doses will go to tribal governments while 19,400 will go to local public health agencies for vaccinations of teachers and others. Pharmacies will receive another 16,200 doses to continue providing shots to residents of long-term care facilities and group homes, who are at elevated risk of severe COVID-19 due to their age and underlying health conditions. State health officials last summer had identified bars and restaurants as leading sites of group outbreaks that spread COVID-19 in their communities. They also found that viral transmissions were more likely late at night when customers became less cautious. Indoor service at bars and restaurants was closed in late November and December amid a second wave of COVID-19 activity, but resumed in January. The state has reported 14 bar and restaurant outbreaks in 2021, defining them as at least five unrelated cases of COVID-19 involving people from five households who had only visited the same establishment in the past month. Sports has been linked to 35 group outbreaks so far in 2021, despite crowd limits and mask requirements for coaches and athletes. Sports outbreaks are defined as two or more cases on the same team within 14 days of one another — with no other known sources of viral transmission. Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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