ST. PAUL --- While students will have the ability to return to the classroom, bars and restaurants will still not be allowed to welcome guests to indoor dining.

Governor Tim Walz announced Wednesday that starting January 18th, every elementary school across the state may choose to return to in-person learning as long as they follow mitigation strategies such as masking and regular testing.

That is the safest and best place for our children to be is in that classroom and now we believe we have the experience, knowledge and resources to not only make it an emotionally and academically safe place but a physically health wise safe place for those students to be.

Walz says youth and high school sports may resume starting January 4th for practices only.

Other modifications to existing restrictions include:

- Social gatherings with one other household indoors, or three households outdoors
- Gyms to open at 25% capacity with masking, 12-foot distancing and no group classes until January 4th.
- Outdoor entertainment venues open at 25% capacity.

Walz says quality time with loved ones and regular exercise are critical to the mental and emotional well-being of families.

He says as for bars, restaurants, breweries and other inside entertainment venues they will remain closed for indoor dining through at least January 11th, but may open for outdoor service at 50% capacity.

I know it's the middle of December and doesn't make folks whole, but like so many of these things, we're trying to move as much as we can to mitigate the risk to provide some of that economic activity while getting the most benefit on the safety and health side of this.

Hospitals across the state remain concerned about capacity. CentraCare President and CEO Ken Holmen says while we are making progress, we can't let up now.

The last two to three weeks have seen the numbers decrease although they are still too high. I am worried about the next few weeks as the end of the year approaches and I continue to worry about the strain on our staff, facilities and citizens.

Holmen says he's thankful to the communities who are making sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors.

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