Gov. Walz Introduces 10 p.m. Curfew
A masked server presents wine at 6Smith restaurant in Wayzata. Stephanie March for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Gov. Walz Introduces 10 p.m. Curfew

The curfew is aimed at halting spread of Covid-19 among young people congregating at bars and restaurants.

Facing “exponential” spread of Covid-19 cases across the state, Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday afternoon set a 10 p.m. curfew for indoor dining at bars and restaurants.

The goal is to take a more “surgical” approach to business restrictions, Walz said. The curfew goes into effect Friday, and it’s not immediately clear how long it will remain in place. He had hinted at the prospect of more limitations at a press conference on Monday. His aim, he said, was to target places where 18- to 35-year-olds have been gathering.

“It makes sense to us now to target those much more surgically, much more aggressively, than a statewide stay-at-home order because 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,” the governor told reporters at the time.

At Tuesday’s conference, Walz said that “the bulk” of recent Covid-19 infections occurred among people under 35.

It’s hard to predict the business impacts of a 10 p.m. closure, but it’s worth noting that many late-night establishments have already seen a considerable decline in business since the onset of the pandemic regardless.

A week ago, Minnesota health commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state has opened more than 170 Covid-19 investigations into dozens of bars and restaurants. So far, the state has linked more than 3,100 cases to bars and restaurants, Malcolm said.

Walz is taking an approach favored by several other government leaders in the country. New Jersey, for instance, is expected to introduce a similar 10 p.m. indoor dining curfew this week. Late last week, Denver’s mayor issued a “Home-By-10” order for his residents.

The news comes amid escalating Covid-19 cases in Minnesota and elsewhere. On Sunday, Minnesota hit a record of nearly 6,000 Covid-19 cases. Though the caseload dropped off slightly to about 4,000 cases on Monday, the trend continues to tick upward. Hospitalizations have also been on the rise, too. In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum yesterday said that his state’s hospitals had reached 100 percent capacity, and that he was allowing nurses who had tested positive for the virus to return to work.

In a separate press call on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Amy Williams, chair and executive dean of the Mayo Clinic Practice, said the governor’s curfew is a “huge step” toward curbing infections.

Williams didn’t seem to have any immediate concerns about hospital capacity, noting that the state is in a “very different place than we were in the spring.” Covid-19 spread among hospital workers, however, is her top concern.

“Our ability to care for patients depends on staffing, supplies, and space,” Williams said. “The most critical worry we have right now, as far as our ability to care for patients, is staffing. We have an increase in staff absences, and this may end up limiting our ability to care for patients.”

Staffing is a similar concern for Minneapolis hospitals, too. Children’s Minnesota, for instance, had about 200 staff members out of work on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Walz administration is taking what steps it can to ameliorate the economic impacts of the curfew and other business interruptions. During his press conference, Walz said the state would offer $10 million more in relief loans for small businesses. Steve Grove, commissioner of the department of employment and economic development, said those funds would go to businesses that had already applied to the state’s loan program but had been placed on a waitlist.