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Walz calls for early bar closures, reduced group gatherings to curb COVID-19 spread

Responding Tuesday to the surging COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz announced dial-back measures that close bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. and restrict the sizes of wedding and funeral receptions, as well as indoor and outdoor gatherings.

“We turned our dials [forward]; we are going to have to turn them back a bit today,” Walz said during an afternoon news conference.

The move comes as the growing pandemic is putting pressure on hospital bed capacity, with only 22 intensive care beds available in the metro area.

State officials said the new restrictions are targeted to settings where the new corona­virus is spreading.

“This is where we can have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time without the massive disruption,” Walz said.

A trade group representing bars and restaurants said the earlier closing time was unfair and would cause financial harm.

The changes do not affect existing safety guidelines for offices, gyms, youth sports or schools. Retail stores, which are a minor factor in COVID-19 spread, now can operate at 100% capacity.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said similar actions taken in other states proved that they are effective in slowing COVID-19 case growth.

“We’ve gotten actually quite helpful input and advice from the White House Task Force and they credit these kinds of quite surgical moves to some of the pretty dramatic impact we saw on some of the states that had spikes earlier in the year,” she said.

The announcement came as the Minnesota Department of Health reported another 23 deaths and 4,906 infections, a continuation of the skyrocketing case growth that began at the end of October. Minnesota is now averaging more than 4,500 new cases a day.

Altogether, 189,681 Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus, with 2,698 deaths since COVID-19 was first detected in the state in March.

Although many people who catch the virus have minor or even no symptoms, COVID-19 complications can develop in those with underlying health conditions, including heart, lung and kidney disease.

With the widening pool of cases, more people need hospital care, with a record 1,224 patients occupying Minnesota hospital beds, including 249 people who require intensive care.

Doctors and nurses in Minnesota are reporting a looming shortage of beds, and long wait-times for patients in emergency rooms, due to staffing shortages that occur when workers suffer infections.

The Minnesota Medical Association on Tuesday applauded the new mitigation efforts, saying they will help stop the spread of the disease. Read from source….