State closures ease as cases ebb
January 8, 2021
The state will allow bars and restaurants to offer indoor dining again next week — with limits — and also allow for movie theaters, museums and other entertainment venues to reopen after being closed since mid-November.
The new order, announced Wednesday by Gov. Tim Walz, is set to take effect Monday. It will allow bars and restaurants to operate at 50-percent capacity, with no more than six people to a table or parties of two at the bar. Reservations are required and dine-in service must end by
“Business owners are pretty innovative on how they do these things,” Walz said. “We are still at high rate of infection, but not like we were.”
Entertainment venues like movie theaters, museums and bowling alleys may reopen at 25- percent capacity. Masks will be required and food service must also end by 10 p.m.
A prior order by Walz that was first announced in mid-November and extended last month is set to lapse Sunday night.
Earlier this week when he signaled he would loosen restrictions, Walz cited lower coronavirus test positivity rates than when the restrictions were imposed. The state’s hospitals, he said, are under less dire strain.
The state has also started vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health workers have administered about 37 percent of the doses the state has received. About 1.5 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated.
Walz said the variant that makes the coronavirus more contagious has not been found in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean it is not in the state. He said wearing masks and social distancing continues to be essential to slow the spread.
Gyms remain capped at 25 percent, with a 150-person limit, and class sizes can increase to 25 people. The order also says people must maintain 9 feet of distance, with masks required. Pools, which reopened earlier this week, must also operate at 25-percent capacity.
Small wedding receptions and other private parties may resume, with limits. If food and drinks are served, parties must be kept to two households or 10 people indoors; that rises to three households or 15 people if the events are held outdoors.
Churches will remain at 50- percent capacity, but the new order will no longer limit the overall number of worshippers.
~ MPR News staff
Local cases tick up
Carlton County Covid-19 case numbers increased by 103 from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5, with two more deaths reported over the same seven-day period.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 6, Carlton County had seen a cumulative total of 2693 Covid-19 cases and 38 deaths, according to the most recent numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health. Also Tuesday, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reported a total of 186 positive tests so far — an increase of four since last week — with 91 of those on the reservation.
The state’s Dec. 31 report by zip code showed nearly every Carlton County zip code with a continued decline in new cases. Cloquet reported 1182 cumulative cases, an increase of only 18 cases from the week before. Carlton saw an increase of four cases to 248. Esko reported 338 cases, a jump of seven. Moose Lake was up to 383 cases as of the Dec. 31 report, 14 new cases since the week before. Barnum showed 182 cases, an increase of nine. Cromwell held steady at 82 cases, so did Wrenshall at 34. Kettle River jumped by two to 35 cumulative cases. Holyoke went up by two to 32. And Sawyer again reported a cumulative total of nine cases.
Carlton County has a cumulative rate of 5.3 percent: that’s the average rate of positive cases per 10,000 people since testing began this spring. The percent of positive cases from Dec. 13-19 (the most recent dates available) came in at 2.9 percent, down from 4.3 percent the week before.
In May, the World Health Organization recommended that the percent positive should remain below 5 percent for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening.
Schools are getting better news these days as well. In addition to the state order allowing elementary schools to resume in-person learning effective Jan. 18, the state’s Covid measurement for schools is dropping too: from 188 positive cases per 10,000 people in the county at the end of November to 75.5 cases per 10,000 in the most recent report, which measured from Dec. 6-19.
There are five (down from six) facilities on the latest list of Carlton County senior living facilities that had or have Covid-19 exposure, including the following: Augustana Mercy Health Care Center, Diamond Willow Cloquet, Inter-Faith Care Center, New Perspective Cloquet and Sunnyside Health Care Center.
Exposure is defined as a person diagnosed with Covid who either visited, worked, or lived at a congregate care facility while they were contagious. It doesn’t necessarily mean that any residents were infected with the coronavirus. Facilities that have not reported a new exposure for a minimum of 28 days will be removed.
The state’s newest report, detailing the number of people who have received one or more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by county, showed Wednesday that 843 people in the county have received the first dose of the vaccine.
While it’s good news, public health officials warn that the end of the pandemic and people getting sick is a long ways away still.
~ Pine Knot News staff