Caution Again Advised for Christmas; Vaccine on Horizon for Public in 2021 Gov. Walz Says

After a surge in cases over Thanksgiving, the Governor said guidance will likely remain for Christmas, and public access to the vaccine in 2021.

ST. PAUL, Minn.- Governor Tim Walz and State Health leaders spoke out in a COVID-19 briefing Monday after a Thanksgiving weekend like no other. They stressed continued mitigation efforts by Minnesotans, with the horizon of a vaccine in the distance — in 2021.

“Minnesotans did a pretty good job staying home, but there’s some data on movement especially the airport and others that show a lot of movement,” Walz said Monday.

Despite those who did chose to stay home with close family, Minnesota Department of Health officials said cases did jump over Thanksgiving, not to mention Friday’s record 101 deaths in a single day.

“Over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend we saw a lot of new cases,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “More than a third of Minnesota counties have had case rates of over 100 weekly cases per 10 thousand people.”

“We consider high risk threshold to be 10 weekly cases per 10 thousand people,” she said.

With that in mind, Governor Walz said it looks like the recommendations to lay low will be the same for Christmas. “I’m not gonna surprise anybody I think the guidance around Thanksgiving is gonna be very similar around Christmas.”

“I would assume that there would be little reason for me to believe that there’s gonna be a dramatic change in the trajectory of the virus spread in the next, little less than four weeks,” he said.

In foreshadowing guidance for a quiet Christmas, the Governor did not mention if the current dial back restrictions on gyms, bars, and restaurants will continue past the tentative December 18th end date.

He said the legislature is closer to reaching an agreement on a package that would grant financial relief to Minnesota businesses, but are ironing out details, like targeting which businesses need the most assistance.

“Golf courses, for example did better this year then they have in any other year,” Walz said. “Do you give a payment to them rather than the small mom & pop stand, hot dog stand that wasn’t able to be at the state fair or whatever it may be? I think that’s the debate that’s happening.”

On the vaccine front, pharma company Moderna joined Pfizer and BioNTech in requesting Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA to start vaccinations in December.

Governor Walz said after he and other Governors spoke to Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, vaccine shipments could hit Minnesota in mid-December.

But health care workers and vulnerable seniors will be among the first to receive it. The general public — likely not until 2021.

“The vaccine supply is going to be limited for some time, it’s gonna take time for them to roll out and be made available to everyone,” said Malcolm.

So MDH officials said right now, the “shot in the arm” for getting the virus under control is to continue following health guidelines.

“But we know that we can look forward to better days in 2021. But we wanna get to that point as quickly and with as many of our fellow Minnesotans not only alive but healthy as we can,” the Commissioner said.

Another briefing on the state’s progress toward a vaccine could be held as soon as next week, said Walz. A small ray of hope in what officials called the darkest time of the pandemic yet.

“Every day we’re getting a little closer to the end of this now, and now is not the time to back off,” the Governor said “So we’ll dig deep here for a few weeks, get through this thing.”

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