MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday changes to the current dial-back restrictions — including adjustments for restaurants, gyms, youth sports, and elementary education — some issued statements saying that the relaxation of some restrictions doesn’t go far enough.
The governor’s latest dial-back order has been in place for four weeks and was originally set to expire Friday, but new restriction parameters begin Saturday.
As part of the new restrictions, bars, restaurants, and breweries must remain closed for indoor dining, but can open for outdoor service at 50% capacity or up to 100 people. Tables are limited to four people, and must be at least six feet apart. This will remain the case until Jan. 11 at the earliest.
Gyms and fitness studios may open for individual exercise at 25% capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, with at least 12 feet of distance between individuals. Additional guidance on group classes, which may begin on Jan. 4, will follow.
The governor also updated the state’s Safe Learning Plan – which outlines learning models and school safety protocols – to allow every elementary school across the state to operate in an in-person learning model starting on Jan. 18. Schools must still implement strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including offering regular testing requiring staff to wear face shields and masks.
“There is strong evidence we are starting to turn a corner thanks to the hard work of Minnesotans over the last few weeks to keep each other safe. But we aren’t out of the woods yet. This way forward will help bridge the gap to vaccination by continuing to protect hospital capacity while prioritizing getting our kids back in the classroom and supporting Minnesotans’ quality of life,” Walz said.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) argued that the people of Minnesota want simple and common-sense rules to keep each other safe.
“If Governor Walz thought people wanted a matrix of rules and guidelines to follow to reopen, he’s severely mistaken,” Gazelka said. “Thousands of businesses had no problems before, but Walz shut down every single one of them anyway. They are just desperate to keep their business going and the data doesn’t support these new restrictions. Let the businesses and employees who were keeping people safe go back to their jobs with simple, easy to follow guidelines.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said the data does not support keeping restaurants from reopening their doors.
“The Governor needs to … stop punishing our hospitality industry when the data does not support their continued closure. Minnesota started a downward trend before restaurants were forced to close, and the governor’s own data shows that only a fraction of a percent of all cases can be tied back to bars and restaurants,” Daudt said.
The Minnesota House GOP caucus said that reopening gyms to 25% capacity is a move that they’ve been pushing for in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s announcement.
“Cases tied to gyms and fitness centers cases were almost nonexistent even when they were open at 50% capacity. The industry has done amazing work to protect the health and safety of employees and their members, and that effort is not reflected in the disappointing moves today from the Governor,” Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing) said.
The state is coming off a surge of COVID-19 cases and is approaching 4,500 cumulative deaths. However on Monday, the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in the state, and on Wednesday Walz signed a $216 million economic relief package to support small businesses and extend unemployment benefits for workers struggling during the pandemic.
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