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Walz considering new virus restrictions amid deadliest week

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz indicated Friday that he’s planning to announce additional restrictions next week aimed at indoor activities involving young adults ages 18 to 35 in hopes of slowing the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Tim Walz

The Democratic governor would not give specifics about those plans, but he reiterated that he’s not contemplating another lockdown such as the one he imposed last spring. Elected officials across the country are showing little appetite for imposing the kind of lockdowns and large-scale business closings seen last spring.

Walz said officials have gotten “better at understanding who’s getting this, where they’re getting it and when they’re getting it.” Another factor, he added, is “tolerance — of what people will and will not do.”

The governor spoke at the Minnesota Department of Health’s regular briefing. where Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm noted that this has been Minnesota’s deadliest week of the pandemic. The department on Friday reported 46 new deaths, the state’s second-worst daily death toll yet. That raised the total reported since Saturday to 248 and the state’s cumulative death toll to 2,839. The state also reported 5,552 new cases Friday for a total of 207,339.

Walz on Tuesday announced tighter nighttime restrictions on bars and restaurants aimed at young adults, and lower crowd limits for weddings, funerals and other gatherings including holiday dinners. A 10 p.m. cutoff for serving food and alcohol at bars and restaurants was due to take effect Friday night. Officials are particularly worried about the spread accelerating as families gather for Thanksgiving, but cautioned that it will be weeks before the new restrictions put any dent in the growing numbers.

Walz was joined by Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, who was named Monday to President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. If people want to be serious about loving and protecting their families, Osterholm said, they should find new ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“This is our COVID year,” he said. “This is not going to be like last year, whether it be the holidays, whether it be everyday life, and it hopefully will not be what it’s going to be like next year.”

Walz said he and Osterholm had good discussions early on about how long people could be kept in a stay-at-home situation. While another lockdown would make sense from a “purely epidemiological perspective,” Walz said, “from a social psychology perspective, and how divided we are, and how controversial this is for some people, it makes it very difficult.”

Osterholm, who emphasized he was speaking for himself and not Biden’s task force, endorsed the governor’s comments.

“There is reality, and there is the ideal. In the ideal world right now, we would all try to limit all the contact we have for the immediate weeks and try to break the back of this,” Osterholm said. “That’s not realistic.”