by Heidi L. Everett
Some sense of normalcy will return to Minnesota this month as elementary children prepare to go back in the classroom, sports activities resume and COVID restrictions are loosened in hospitality and fitness.
School children returned to class online this week, and elementary schools are prepared for in-person learning starting the week of Jan. 18.
Youth and adult organized sports also resumed practice this week with games resuming Jan. 14 with spectators.
On Jan. 6, Gov. Tim Walz announced additional measures that loosen restrictions on other important parts of daily life as COVID-19 numbers improve across Minnesota.
“The situation in Minnesota is undeniably better than it was last month,” Walz said in a news release. “We have reasons to be optimistic, and Minnesotans’ sacrifices and commitments to their communities helped change the pandemic’s trajectory and saved lives. But we need to protect the progress we’ve made.”
Walz’s announcement comes as tens of thousands of Minnesotans have received their first dose of the vaccine, COVID-19 cases are down and hospital bed use is declining.
This latest loosening of restrictions starts Jan. 11 and allows:
• Indoor dining at bars and restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity with a maximum of 150 people. Reservations are required; and establishments must close dine-in service by 10 p.m.
• Indoor events and entertainment – like bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums – to open at 25 percent with no more than 150 people in each area of the venue. Face coverings are required, and food service is not available after 10 p.m.
Gyms, pools, outdoor events and entertainment and places of worship remain capped; however capacity was increased in the announcement.
As some restrictions loosen, Minnesota faces challenges to protect the recent progress made, including other states seeing the virus surge, public health experts warning of a potential post-holiday case surge and the emergence of a new, more contagious coronavirus variant spreading around the world.
Minnesotans should continue to take precautions to combat the spread of the virus in their community – wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay outside when possible.