COVID-19 cases spike; new curfews and social gathering limits are in place

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By Lee Egerstrom

With all 50 states reporting spikes in COVID-19 pandemic cases, and with Minnesota and Upper Midwest states in the thick of it, new state guidelines and restrictions for social gatherings have gone into effect. Thanksgiving celebrations, except for households, will need to be scaled back. The new guidelines announced in the second week of November may be expanded in early December.

And that could be sooner if Minnesota follows the lead of other states hunkering down as precautions of the rapidly expanding pandemic. The new restrictions and guidelines are less stringent than those imposed earlier in various states and by countries around the world. But in announcing current guidelines, Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged important steps are necessary now if we all may “dance a lot longer.”

The guidelines and related bar and restaurant limits won’t affect the Native American community more than others, especially other ethnic communities that also host large family occasions. Large families, however, should begin adjusting their traditional Thanksgiving Day plans. Families and friends are told to keep a 10-person limit for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. All who do attend these social gatherings should be from only three households or less, including the host.

The Governor’s family usually hosts up to 24 relatives for Thanksgiving, Walz said. This year, it will only be the state’s First Lady, the governor, and their two children.

The state’s Stay Safe Minnesota website offers guidance for families and individuals planning social events. It includes reminders that people from different households should stay six feet apart, seating areas should be arranged ahead of time to allow proper space between people; and people should wear a mask in both indoor and outdoor places – especially when they can’t remain six feel away from people not from their household.

Health officials stress again that you should wear a mask when you arrive, when you leave, and if you move around among people at these social gatherings. Also, try to avoid sharing items and equipment with others, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol once you are done.

Bars and restaurants will most likely have economic consequences from trying to keep Minnesotans healthy. They have to shut down bar counter service and all patrons must be seated at tables following state guidelines. Exceptions are counter service only places where patrons line up with proper social distancing and wear masks until they return to seats.

These new requirements must be done with space restricted to 50 percent of the establishment’s usual capacity. Dine in service must end at 10 p.m. Restaurants may continue takeout and delivery food service after that curfew.

Places of worship, religious services, weddings and funerals are also be impacted.

From Nov. 13 on, events are not to be held between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Also, beginning Nov. 27, such events will have a 50-person limit. That limit drops to 25 people on Dec. 11.

These safeguards come after Minnesota and nearby states have infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths hitting new highs since monitoring of the coronavirus outbreak began in March. The deaths in Minnesota reached 56 on Wednesday, Nov. 11, when 4,900 new cases were reported; and have slacked off only slightly since.

Next door in Wisconsin, the previous day’s death count was 66, and 7,073 new cases were reported – both records. North Dakota is hit even higher on a per capita count for infections and hospitalizations.

Gov. Doug Burgum has now ordered health professionals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to go back to work if they don’t have symptoms – an emergency measure to provide health care for sick North Dakotans.

Being safe and untouched by the virus may well become the No. 1 reason for Minnesota families to be thankful this Thanksgiving. But it will require caution and postponed social gatherings to stay that way.

Helpful health and COVID-19 safety information is available at http://staysafe.mn.gov/, at
https://staysafe,mn.gov/individuals-families/social-gatherings.jsp, and daily coronavirus data and information is update at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/situation.html.