Aug 18, 2021 - COVID

Spike in COVID cases, Delta variant threaten Minnesota's fall fun

Illustration of a calendar with the letter delta on every date.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Vaccines gave us our summer back. Now, Delta and other variants are threatening to steal our fall.

What's happening: A rise in cases and concerns about Delta's transmissibility have prompted major companies and institutions to reevaluate return-to-office plans and COVID-prevention policies, including mask and vaccine mandates.

The big picture: It's not just office plans. The return to "normalcy" we all crave could be put in jeopardy, especially as the weather turns.

  • We're back in masks in many places and COVID-related anxiety is on the rise, especially among parents.
  • Operators and staff at Twin Cities metro music venues and other hospitality companies are worried about more cancellations this fall. A music festival in Brainerd came to an early end after an outbreak among performers.
  • Maari Cedar-James of Chow Girls Catering told local members of Congress she got word of 17 canceled events over 10 days this month, resulting in $60,000 in lost business.
  • Restaurants, still suffering from pandemic-related staffing and supply chain issues, are also bearing the brunt of the office scene’s delayed return and customer concerns about indoor dining.
  • Meanwhile, St. Louis Park recently extended its temporary authorization of outdoor dining tents at restaurants through Oct. 1.

Reality check: We're still in a much better place than we were last year. Even with a spike in cases Tuesday — we're averaging roughly 1,200 new ones a day Minnesota's total remains lower than previous waves.

  • Plus: While "breakthrough" cases can occur, the vast majority of new positive tests are among the unvaccinated, state health officials say.
  • Our 70% shot rate for eligible Minnesotans should help shield us from hitting crisis levels seen recently in other states.

Yes, but: Children under 12 remain vulnerable without access to vaccines. Back-to-school season, combined with more of us heading indoors, could lead to another bump in cases next month.

What we're watching: The Great Minnesota Get-Together, hailed as a "brass ring" of our "post-pandemic summer," is set to start a week from Thursday. It’s too soon to say whether the pandemic will hurt attendance — or lead to more spread — but COVID-19 is already having some effects on the fair’s return.

  • The decision to not mandate masks or vaccines has led at least one state agency — the Minnesota Council on Disability — and a local DFL state lawmaker to publicly boycott the event.
  • The fair and some vendors, meanwhile, are struggling to fill vacant jobs thanks to the broader labor shortage.

The bottom line: Things are better, but we're not out of the woods yet. An always-shifting situation — and updates to public health guidance — are making it hard for people and businesses to firm up fall plans.


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