By Caroline Cummings

BLOOMINGTON (WCCO) –  As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rise in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday said he has no plans to reinstate more restrictions on businesses since his recent significant changes, including allowing fans at sports stadiums.

“We know far more about this now. We have far more robust testing. We have far more vaccines in arms that I don’t think at this time that’s where we’re looking at,” Walz said at a vaccination site at Mall of America.

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His caveat is if hospitals become overrun, officials will take “appropriate steps necessary.” But while cases and hospitalizations increase in Minnesota—attributed to the more infectious U.K. variant strain circulating—vaccinations are promising.

So far the state has given more than three million total shots, which means 42% of the population 16 and older has at least one shot, according to state data.

“What’s changing this equation is the vaccine,” he said of the difference between the November surge and the uptick in Minnesota right now.

But Walz stopped short of setting a specific date and parameters for when more limits will lift, similar to a move by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who promised his state can fully reopen June 15 if vaccinations continue and hospital use remains low. The mask mandate would remain in place under his plan.

“I would mention that California has at a much lower rate of infections as it currently stands,” Walz said when WCCO asked him if he would set a similar goal. “I think what their thinking is by giving that day, that they’re going to outrace the variant with vaccines because they’re not a hotspot.”

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The governor said Minnesotans should get “some real clarity of where this thing’s going to end” in the next three weeks. He noted that his team of public health officials is monitoring Michigan, which is the biggest hotspot in the country right now.

Minnesota, though, is in the top 10 states for highest infection rates, according to a White House COVID-19 report. Hospitalizations here have more than doubled in the last month.

A new flashpoint in the pandemic debate: vaccine passports, or credentials to show you’re inoculated as things get back to normal.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott banned state agencies and entities that receive public funding from requiring proof that people are vaccinated. New York is piloting a digital pass signaling residents have had their shots.

Walz said he is not planning on rolling out anything similar.

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“I have no intention of doing vaccine passports,” he said. “Our vaccine passport is get the shot.”

Caroline Cummings