EDITORIAL: Data says it all: Walz’s November restrictions need immediate end

From the onset of the COVD-19 pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz has pledged to use data and science to drive the response by his administration.
Walz has cited data when “adjusting the dials” to ease restrictions or add them during the course of the last several months, including his mid-November “dial back” edict that closed restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, paused youth sports and even set regulations on private gatherings.
Now after several weeks, the data has spoken and it’s long past time for Walz to move the dials again and roll back all of the restrictions he put in place several weeks ago.
While we’ve questioned and taken issue with much of Walz’s response to the pandemic, particularly the impact it has had on businesses and schools in Minnesota, there’s no doubt that November was the state’s darkest month when it came to COVID-19.
The number of cases, hospitalizations, deaths all skyrocketed to their highest levels, as did test positivity rates.
Yet just as quickly as the numbers shot up, they’ve since come back down, remarkably so and to levels that - at least previously - allowed for life in Minnesota to proceed without the current heavy-handed restrictions of the state.
Across the board, the numbers are telling.
According to the New York Times, over the last two weeks, Minnesota’s average of new cases is down 58 percent with hospitalizations decreased by 30 percent.
Since a Nov. 20 peak, when the state had 51,118 active cases of COVID-19, that number has fallen by a whopping 76 percent to 12,166 as of Dec. 30.
During November and into early-December, just about any day found test positivity rates in the double digits, with some days recording alarming rates of 14 or 15 percent. Those numbers too, have fallen, with single-digit totals now the norm and some days settling in below five percent, a number that state health officials say shows containment. In St. Louis County, the positive test rate has fallen from over 12 percent in late-November to 5.2 percent as of Dec. 24.
The good news extends to Ely as well where after a mid-November spike that included 33 new cases one week and 24 the next, growth has slowed to a crawl with only three new cases from Dec. 11-17 and two for the week that ended Dec. 24. Those numbers produce a case rate that would allow for schools to be open entirely for in-person learning, according to recommendations released earlier this year.
Amid these developments, it’s clearly time to adjust the dials again, on pure data alone.
The numbers have fallen to levels that were last seen in late-October, weeks before Walz announced the “pause” and when businesses impacted by it were open.
If those venues were open when test rates were rising, and active cases were twice or three times as high as they are today, they should also be now that cases and test rates have fallen and remain in decline.
We listened to U. S. Rep. Pete Stauber last week as he convened business owners from across the district and heard their plight, and their pleas.
The pandemic has been disproportionate in its impact, with some businesses allowed to remain open while others have been hit with restrictions that have already closed many permanently, and put others on the verge of extinction.
This has a ripple effect, even in Ely, where the closure of businesses and cancellation of events hits the bottom line even of those who are allowed and have been able to remain open.
The heavy hand of government is picking winners and losers during the pandemic and that’s simply wrong - and needs immediate change.
As he has throughout the pandemic, Walz and his braintrust have dodged legitimate questions about the latest round of restrictions - particularly what data will be used to roll them back. It’s frustrating but all too common, as the goalposts seem to continue to move whether one’s talking about business reopenings, an end to mask mandates or school reopenings. The slipperiness breeds distrust.
But the governor can’t dodge the data forever, and a growing number of state lawmakers have made it clear they’re tired of the antics as well. We’re with Rep. Stauber on this one: it’s time for the state to reverse the restrictions that were put in place several weeks ago. Now.