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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Encouraging trends in Minnesota's COVID-19 caseloads are prompting renewed calls for Gov. Tim Walz to further lift restrictions on businesses and schools. But, for the most part, the governor says you shouldn't expect a major reversal soon.

What's happening: Hospitality industry groups and legislative Republicans have called on Walz to commit to a timeline for fully reopening the state, citing weeks of declining positivity rates and hospitalizations.

  • Pressure is also mounting to allow more middle and high schoolers back into the classroom.

What he's saying: Walz, who has issued the restrictions via executive order, rebuffed calls to define specific metrics or timelines for reopening. The governor argued that while things look stable now, the emergence of new, more contagious variants creates too much uncertainty.

  • "I don’t think you can ever set the date on this, but I feel their sense of urgency," Walz said at a Tuesday press conference.
  • The DFL governor did signal he's thinking about easing restrictions for in-person instruction for older students.

Why it matters: Hospitality businesses say more certainty, even with the caveat that the timeline could change if cases rise, will allow them to plan and attract future bookings.

  • "We need to be able to signal to the market that Minnesota has a plan to move forward, that we're open for business so that we’re not losing business to other states," Hospitality Minnesota president Liz Rammer said this week.

Yes, but: While the COVID case count and vaccinations are moving things in the right direction, officials say the situation remains dangerously fluid. MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state remains "between the caution and high-risk" level on several key measures.

  • Arguments to reopen once the most vulnerable, such as assisted living residents, are vaccinated fail to account for unknowns about long-term effects of infection among young, healthy people, Walz added.

The bottom line: An announcement about secondary schools — which Walz said is dependent on guidance from the federal government — could come within the next week.

  • But while small tweaks to broader restrictions could be issued, businesses should be prepared to wait for a bigger "dial turn."

Go deeper

Feb 11, 2021 - Health

Fauci: 20,000 pregnant women have had COVID vaccine without complications

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci at the White House in January. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing Wednesday that 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated against COVID-19 without complications.

Why it matters: The new figure comes weeks after the World Health Organization altered its guidance for pregnant women and inoculation to say those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated, in line with CDC guidance.

Feb 10, 2021 - Health

CDC: COVID-19 quarantine unnecessary for fully vaccinated people

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to quarantine after exposure to someone infected with the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.

Yes, but: The CDC's definition of "fully vaccinated" is narrow in scope. The agency urges caution regardless of vaccination status, especially as new variants continue to spread.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Feb 10, 2021 - Health

The pandemic's coming new normal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Library of Congress/Corbis via Getty Images

As both vaccinations and acquired immunity spread, life will likely settle into a new normal that will resemble pre-COVID-19 days — with some major twists.

The big picture: While hospitalizations and deaths are tamped down, the novel coronavirus should recede as a mortal threat to the world. But a lingering pool of unvaccinated people — and the virus' own ability to mutate — will ensure SARS-CoV-2 keeps circulating at some level, meaning some precautions will be kept in place for years.