Prioritize Getting Kids Back in the Classroom:
Kids being in school is an important public health priority. Schools play a critical role in the health, well-being, and education of Minnesota’s children. Based on Minnesota’s evolving understanding of the virus, young kids are believed to be less susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19. The state has also learned more about how to reduce the potential for spread in schools from success in other settings. Today the Governor will announce that the state is updating the Safe Learning Plan so that starting on January 18, 2021, every elementary school across the state may choose to operate in an in-person learning model as long as they are able to implement additional mitigation strategies. These strategies include providing and requiring staff to wear a face shield and mask, and offering routine testing.
“This plan prioritizes the health, well-being, and education of our students, while taking precautions to protect the teachers and staff who care for them, so we can begin to help them make up for lost time,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “The best place for our students to learn is in the classroom. For our youngest learners, in-person learning is critical for their health and development in both the short and long term.”
Support Minnesotans’ Quality of Life:
The last year has been extremely difficult. Quality time with loved ones and regular exercise are critical to the mental and emotional well-being of families across the state. Several modifications to existing restrictions will allow Minnesotans to tend to their quality of life:
- Social Gatherings: Indoor gatherings are not recommended, but Minnesotans may gather inside with one other household up to 10 people. If outside, social gatherings may include up to two additional households (three total) with a maximum of 15 people, starting December 19. Masking and social distancing is strongly encouraged.
- Gyms and fitness studios: May open for individual exercise at 25 percent capacity, or 100 people maximum, with masks and 12 feet of physical distancing between individuals. Additional guidance about group classes, which can begin January 4, will be forthcoming.
- Youth and adult sports: Practices can resume January 4. Additional guidance regarding the resumption of practices will be forthcoming. Additionally, organized sports activity is no longer directly tied to county case data or school learning model.
- Outdoor entertainment venues: Open at 25 percent capacity, up to 100 people at a time. If food and drink are served, all must be seated.
Protect Hospital Capacity:
As Minnesota approaches 4,500 deaths, our hospitalization rates and community spread put Minnesota well above the high-risk threshold and are still significantly higher than this summer and fall. Hospitals remain concerned about capacity as COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities across Minnesota. Governor Walz is continuing efforts to stem community spread of COVID-19 and support our frontline heroes. Inside entertainment venues, event spaces, and similar establishments remain closed until January 11.
Bars, restaurants, and breweries also remain closed for indoor dining, but they may open for outdoor service at 50 percent capacity or up to 100 people. Each table is limited to four people, and tables must be at least six feet apart. In his announcement, the Governor will acknowledge this action is by no means a solution for the industry as a whole. Rather, it is a recognition that some establishments – particularly breweries – have put significant work into making outdoor service possible and this may prove helpful to some.
Help Small Businesses Stay Afloat:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly painful for Minnesota’s businesses and workers. Governor Walz will sign into law $216 million in direct support for small businesses and workers affected by the pandemic. The bipartisan bill will provide direct, targeted aid to keep our small businesses afloat, extend unemployment benefits for workers struggling to get by, and help families put food on the table. While not the lifeline that our businesses need, the Governor believes this is an important step in the right direction as the state continues to push for federal relief.
More information on these restrictions and the state response is available here.
The major Minnesota-based health care systems continue to express concerns about hospital capacity. Here is what they are saying:
Ken Holmen, MD, President and CEO of CentraCare
“I’m very hopeful and thankful today. I appreciate the leadership of the Governor and his staff during this challenging time and the collaboration among health care organizations as our amazing frontline workers provide 24/7 care under the most difficult of circumstances. I’m also thankful to our communities who are making sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors.
We are making progress, but we can’t let up. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are starting to decrease. Vaccines are now here, but their impact will take several months. So we’re counting on every Minnesotan to keep doing your part – wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. If we all do this over the next few weeks, it will save lives and be the best measure of our holiday spirit.”
Rahul Koranne, MD, MBA, FACP, President and CEO of Minnesota Hospital Association
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Minnesota’s hospitals, health systems and health care heroes have been working around the clock to respond to COVID-19 in communities across the state. We appreciate Governor Walz’s actions to reduce community spread and help ensure that our hospitals and health systems can maintain our care capacity – the combination of physical space to care for patients as well as the necessary team members to deliver the care.
We are grateful for the sacrifices Minnesotans have made since this spring to follow public health guidelines and slow the spread of COVID-19. The vaccine is an important new tool to help protect our health care heroes as they care for patients and interact in our communities. Until we have broad vaccine availability, it is still critical that we all do our part to follow public health guidelines to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Penny Wheeler, MD, CEO of Allina Health
“There is no question that 2020 has been exceedingly difficult for every Minnesotan, especially those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. We continue to appreciate the leadership of the Walz Administration and support these recommendations which will help limit community spread of the virus to ensure that we are able to meet all of the health care needs of the community. Reimagining the holidays and valued traditions is an important thing that all of us can do to help protect each other and our amazing health care workers. The forthcoming vaccine is cause for hope. However, we must stay committed to effective public health measures now to prevent further illness and suffering.”
Marc Gorelick, MD, President and CEO of Children’s Minnesota
“Even with a vaccine right around the corner, COVID-19 continues to take a heavy toll on our community. Distribution of a vaccine will take months, so it is up to each of us to do our part to stop the rampant spread of this dangerous virus. This year has brought unprecedented challenges that none of us had predicted. And we understand that especially during the holiday season, it is difficult to be away from loved ones. But COVID-19 isn’t taking a holiday.
Now more than ever, our community needs the healthcare heroes who come in, day after day, giving their all to patients who need them. Too many healthcare heroes are being sidelined by COVID-19 – in nearly all cases due to being exposed out in the community. For the sake of those healthcare heroes, your neighbors and loved ones, please do everything you can to keep healthy and safe: wear your masks, wash your hands, watch your distance, and continue to follow the guidelines.”
David Herman, MD, CEO of Essentia Health
“At Essentia Health, we believe in science-based strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These include limiting group gatherings, masking and social distancing, which is why we support the governor’s announcement/latest dial-back measures. Like health care systems across the state, we are confronting very real concerns over our hospital and ICU-bed capacity. In order for us to continue providing the high-quality care our patients deserve when they need us, we need to slow community transmission of this deadly virus. The end of this pandemic is on the horizon, but we must remain vigilant and take actions that protect our friends, family and neighbors.”
Andrea Walsh, President and CEO of HealthPartners
“HealthPartners supports Gov. Walz’s continued measures aimed at limiting further COVID-19 spread. These measures, along with the impact of Minnesotans wearing masks, keeping physical distance and avoiding gatherings outside of immediate households, appears to be slowing infection rates in Minnesota. With vaccines looking promising but still some time away, steps we take now will help us keep people healthier and ensure that our hospitals and caregivers can be there for all who are counting on us.”
Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO of Hennepin Healthcare
“The ability of Hennepin Healthcare to care for patients with COVID-19, patients who need trauma care, and all who depend on us is in the hands of all Minnesotans. We are grateful to those who have become the front line of defense by making difficult sacrifices that appear to have helped level COVID volume growth that was threatening to overwhelm our healthcare system. Now we need to hold on a little longer so that we can stay flat, or even see a decline in cases, as we approach the end of the year. If we stay vigilant and stay together, we can all experience better, brighter days ahead as the vaccine becomes more broadly available.”
James Hereford, President and CEO of M Health Fairview
“While a vaccine provides great hope, the fact is we are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic every day. Our healthcare workers are not the front line – they are the last line of defense in this fight. While they continue to tirelessly care for those who are ill, the best way to protect yourself and your family and to support our heroic healthcare workers is to respect these important public health measures. Please do your part: stay home when you can, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.”
Kevin Croston, MD, Chief Executive Officer of North Memorial Health
“There is nothing more important to North Memorial Health than being here when you need us most. But our ability to do that relies heavily on you and every other member of our community. We support Governor Walz’s extension of restrictions on businesses and gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19. Your decisions to wear a mask, to limit social contacts, and to stay home when you are sick all make a difference to the health of our community and our ability to care for you.
As a Level I Trauma Center, we do crisis really well. But the reality is, our people and our facilities are stressed and becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19. We need you to step up as part of our connected health family to help control the spread. We are asking you to find different ways to celebrate this holiday season so that we can all have many future holidays together.”