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Walz hints at targeted restrictions to curb COVID-19 spread

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Tim Walz said Monday that he plans to announce new restrictions that target active spreaders of COVID-19 in an effort to bring the coronavirus under control as cases have surged to dangerous levels in recent weeks.

Walz plans to unveil at least some of his restrictions on Tuesday, hinting that they would be more “surgically, much more aggressively” targeted than the 51-day stay-at-home order from the spring.

Tim Walz

“At this point in time, we’ve learned we can do retail, we can do education, some of it in person, if we’re able to test, contain and contact trace those folks to get (their infections) isolated,” he said.

New plans also include mobile device tracking that would alert people when they have been exposed to the virus.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said Monday that the state is adding more than a dozen free COVID-19 testing sites around the state over the next two weeks. Testing at the sites will be free and available to anyone, whether symptomatic or not. A saliva testing site opened Monday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and another saliva testing site will open Thursday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

An additional 11 sites will open next Monday at National Guard armories statewide. Those sites, operated by the Minnesota National Guard in partnership with local public health staff, will offer a mix of saliva and nasal swab tests and will stay open through at least the end of the year.

“Over the last week, Minnesotans saw our COVID-19 positivity rate climb higher than ever before. We have entered a dangerous phase of this pandemic, and our testing strategy is key to controlling the spread,” Walz said in a statement. “So many people are spreading the virus before they know they have it … today’s announcement brings us closer to getting the virus under control.”

Health officials say increased testing is needed to help people find out if they have COVID-19 and to help the department track, trace and find asymptomatic people to prevent more spreading.

“The rate of case growth we are seeing is very concerning. Ultimately, our goal is to get out there, do as much testing as we can — with case investigation, contact tracing, and the necessary isolation — to stop this disease from spreading,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

Tom Weaver is one person who took a saliva test. He said it was quick and easy.

“It’s just a peace of mind kind of thing,” Weaver said. “You can go about your life letting people know, that way everybody is in the know, the best information is available, and they can make decisions appropriately.”

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 3,930 new cases on Monday, lower than the single-day record of 5,924 set just a day earlier. The update lifted the total number of cases in Minnesota to 184,788 since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials confirmed additional 19 deaths Monday, for a total number of 2,675 fatalities.

Walz said he is grateful for the partnerships that made the expanded testing possible.

“We need all Minnesotans to come together and remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 as we prepare for a long winter ahead,” he said.