Gov. Tim Walz last week suggested that new guidance for businesses could come by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.
On WCCO Radio on Friday, Walz said Minnesota has made progress in its fight against stopping the spread of COVID-19, noting the state’s case numbers have dropped.
“Hopefully by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week we’ll try and get that guidance out,” Walz said, acknowledging that businesses in the hospitality industry need time to be able to reopen and that “99.9% of them make all the efforts to mitigate” the spread of COVID-19.
The executive order banning indoor dining is set to end Jan. 11.
Senate Republicans have urged Walz to issue new guidance by Monday on whether he’ll allow them to reopen so they have time to prepare. Sens. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, and Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, sent a letter to Walz asking him to reopen the hospitality industry at 50% capacity on Jan. 11.
“Anyone who runs a restaurant knows it’s not just flipping a switch to reopen. The industry needs time to order supplies and schedule employees at least a week in advance,” Pratt said. “We wanted to urge the governor to make his intentions clear by Monday, January 4, so businesses know if they can reopen, as they hope to, on Jan. 11. Waiting too long to announce plans will delay reopening, and it may cause them to permanently close.”
Walz on WCCO Radio said, “I do think the data on case positivity is incredibly encouraging right now,” but stressed the importance of “trying to make sure that we’re striking that proper balance” of reopening things and mitigation efforts.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Minnesota’s test positivity rate over the past seven days is 5.56%. The only states with lower positivity rates on a seven-day rolling average are North Dakota, Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska.
“The virus is still out there,” Walz said, noting Minnesota is No. 15 in the country in terms of cases per 100,000 people and dropping rapidly. Walz backed his claim about cases per 100,000 people by saying Minnesota is surrounded by the top four states in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, none of which have restrictions on indoor dining.
Walz is correct that the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin have the highest number of cases per 100,000 people in the country, but only from the full view of the pandemic dating back to Jan. 21, 2020. Minnesota is 20th in that metric, though Walz’s claim of the state being 15th was made Jan. 1, since then the numbers have changed.
Based on cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rates Minnesota is fifth among U.S. states at 28.6 cases per 100,000 people. North Dakota is sixth (29.5), Iowa is 12th (40.4), Wisconsin is 14th (43.3) and South Dakota is 17th (46.3).