‘We’re beating this thing’: Walz eases restrictions, allows fans for Twins opener

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota have plummeted to levels not seen since last April, and vaccine access is rapidly expanding.

Gov. Tim Walz/YouTube

Facing renewed pressure to let businesses fully reopen and entertainment venues partially reopen, Gov. Tim Walz gave the go-ahead Friday to fan attendance at upcoming games, while increasing occupancy at bars, restaurants and various gathering spots.

Effective April 1, outdoor facilities like Target Field can allow 10,000 people, while indoor places, such as Target Center and Xcel Energy Center, are permitted 3,000 fans.

The Twins released a statement saying they’re “thrilled that the new state guidelines pave the way for the safe return of our fans to Target Field for the upcoming 2021 season, beginning with our April 8 home opener.”

The team has been patiently waiting after submitting a safety plan to the Department of Health last month, including tying up seats not in use, using an app for contactless ordering, and numerous cleaning protocols.

“I don’t think we realized quite how much we missed it, how much that means to our great game until we were able to have it back,” Twins Communications Manager Matt Hodson said, referring to fans attending spring training games in Florida this month.

Earlier this week, Walz said, “The Twins need to know how many tickets they’re going to sell for Opening Day. And we want to give them that certainty.”

Pressure built up for a decision the last few days, with the Pioneer Press confessing, “Republicans have data and at least some scientific purchase to their arguments — and Walz knows it.”

“ICU admissions are nearing pre-pandemic levels,” Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said this week. “We’re simply asking him to follow the data.”

Many colleges allowed a percentage of fans throughout the fall and winter sports seasons. Some tournaments, like NCHC Hockey beginning today in North Dakota, and NCAA Basketball next week in Indiana, are being played in one location to lessen travel, create a “bubble,” and minimize risk.

The Texas Rangers will allow full capacity to start the 2021 season, while other Major League Baseball teams vary.

The Saint Paul Saints, now the Twins AAA affiliate, played safely last summer in front of fans.

Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller said earlier this week the team is planning to welcome full attendance at home games next season.

The University of Minnesota announced today it will return to full on-campus operations this fall.

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota have plummeted to levels not seen since last April, and vaccine access is rapidly expanding. More than 20% of Minnesotans have now received a vaccination, including nearly three-fourths of senior citizens.

Some rollback measures take effect Monday, including social gatherings of 15 people indoors or 50 outdoors. Bars and restaurants can operate at 75% of indoor capacities.

Due to COVID-19 positivity rates below 5% every day since mid-January, the following will also take effect April 1:

  • All venues can open at 50% capacity, up to 250 people.
  • Seated outdoor venues can add an additional 25% of their capacity, with a limit of 10,000 people.
  • Non-seated outdoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity, with a limit of 10,000 people.
  • Seated indoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity, with a limit of 3,000 people.
  • Non-seated indoor venues can add an additional 10% of their capacity, with a limit of 1,500 people.

“Minnesotans should continue to take simple steps to protect the progress we’ve made, but the data shows that we are beating COVID-19,” Walz said Friday.

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