COVID-19 Testing

A representative from a testing company speaks with Nicollet County Public Health nurses ahead of a COVID-19 testing event in St. Peter Nov. 17. (Philip Weyhe/southernminn.com)

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to roll out new curbs Wednesday aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19, including limiting bars and restaurants to takeout-only for four weeks, a source tells MPR News.

Gyms and fitness centers will also be closed for that duration, the source said.

The new restrictions take effect Friday. Walz is expected to formally announce the new curbs in an address to Minnesotans at 6 p.m.

State health investigators have identified bars, restaurants, fitness centers, gyms, youth sports and social gatherings as sources of COVID-19 transmission in the current outbreak.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers — its daily and cumulative tallies of infections, testing, hospitalization and death — are bad and getting worse.

A little more than through the month, the state is fast approaching 100,000 new cases in November alone. That’s a nearly half of the state’s total cases — 236,949 — since March.

Nearly 500 people have died of COVID-19 in Minnesota this month, and the state is likely to have lost a total of 3,000 people to the disease since the beginning of the pandemic by the end of the week.

More than 1,600 people are in Minnesota hospitals now because of COVID-19, with more than 300 needing intensive care. The state’s hospitals, short on staff and capacity, are bracing themselves for what they expect to be a wave of new patients, new cases, new ICU admissions in the coming weeks, as people who have fallen ill during the recent surge get sicker.

And while statewide testing has expanded dramatically, the rate of testing is nowhere near the rate of new case growth.

All week, state officials have been pleading with Minnesotans not to gather with anyone outside their immediate household for Thanksgiving. They also asked college students to consider not going home for the holiday.

On Wednesday, the state is expected to ask for more. Public health officials, for instance, have recently identified youth sports as an increasing source of COVID-19 transmission.

They’ve said people are getting infected on the field and off, and they’re carrying the coronavirus with them into school buildings and other settings — raising risks for more than just those student athletes.

Bars and restaurants, too, which are already operating under several restrictions, are much the same, and have been tied to outbreaks statewide.

In the spring, Walz imposed restrictions limiting bars and restaurants to takeout only in the state’s initial efforts at flattening the coronavirus curve, then gradually loosened restrictions as the summer wore on.

But in the spring, workers whose jobs were eliminated or furloughed were able to receive $600 in relief from the federal CARES Act, the economic stimulus bill enacted in March. Since then, that relief has expired, and this time around, impacts on the hospitality industry could be more financially painful.

Watch live at 6 p.m.: Walz to announce new restrictions

Walz will address the state at 6 p.m. Wednesday. MPR News radio will carry the address live on the air, with context from reporters. If you can’t get to a radio, you can stream the address live on MPRNews.org and on the mobile app. 

© 2020 Minnesota Public Radio. All rights reserved.

Load comments