MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota bars and restaurants may resume indoor service with capacity limits on Monday as COVID-19 cases and deaths across the state continue to fall.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday reported 980 new infections and four deaths, marking the second time since October that single-day cases dipped below 1,000 and the first time since early November the state reported single-digit deaths. The state’s totals now sit at 437,552 cases and 5,711 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Deaths and hospitalizations continue to decline, with the seven-day average of daily deaths dropping from 42.43 on Dec. 27 to 39.57 deaths per day on Sunday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 numbered about 686 as of Sunday, including 141 in intensive care.
As COVID-19 cases have been declining, Minnesota bars and restaurants may resume indoor service with limits starting Monday after Gov. Tim Walz eased restrictions following a “pause” in response to soaring cases in November. They can resume indoor service at 50% capacity, but must still abide by 10 pm. curfews and take measures to distance people.
The restrictions had generated sharp pushback, with some bars and restaurants defiantly reopening in recent weeks, risking fines and losses of their liquor licenses. The state has gone to court against several violators.
Other businesses are also seeing some loosened restrictions starting Monday. Indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums can reopen at 25% capacity for a maximum of 150 people in each area of the venue. Face coverings will remain required, and they can’t serve food after 10 p.m.
The changes come a day after Minnesota health officials announced that they have confirmed five cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus in the Twin Cities area. The development doesn’t surprise officials, but they said it underscores the importance of slowing spread of the virus by wearing masks, maintaining social distance and quarantining if exposed.
During a virtual forum on Monday, Minnesota’s legislative leaders discussed the fate of Walz’s peacetime emergency powers now that the Legislature is in session. While Republican leaders argued the Legislature should scale back the governor’s emergency powers and share in that decision-making, Speaker Melissa Hortman pointed to the differences in masking policies between the Democratic House and GOP-controlled Senate as why sharing those powers could make reaching agreement challenging.
“When you see that difference on something so basic, and so fundamental about protecting human beings’ lives as these different approaches on masking policy, it starts to explain to you the difficulty that we’ll have in governing the state together with regard to COVID-19,” Hortman said.