ST. PAUL — State health officials and Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, May 15, said the reopening of Wisconsin bars this week could fuel increased numbers of coronavirus cases in Minnesota, particularly in border communities.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck that state's "safer-at-home" order, which led to the quick reopening of bars and taverns in the state that night. And patrons packed the bars to get their first drink in public after weeks of sheltering in place.

Now, the results of that decision could manifest themselves in Minnesota, Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

“We do expect it will affect us,” Malcolm told reporters. "We're monitoring what’s happening, in particular along the border."

Malcolm said she expected some Minnesotans visited the bars as they began reopening, ahead of Minnesota's proposed timeline to reopen dine-in restaurants, bars, and other businesses next month. But the impact wasn't immediately clear.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Gov. Tim Walz earlier in the week announced Minnesota would lift its stay-at-home order Sunday and retail businesses would be allowed to begin operating at 50% capacity on Monday. Minnesotans would also be allowed to congregate in groups of up to 10 people under new executive orders issued Wednesday.

Walz on Friday told reporters that his administration was moving forward with targets of reopening restaurants, bars, salons, gyms and other areas of public amusement on June 1. The state was set to issue guidance May 20 to help those sectors get ready to come back online.

"It’s not a magical date, it’s our goal,” Walz said, noting that state officials would be monitoring hospital capacity and changes in reported cases as the stay-at-home orders lift to determine whether the June 1 date would stand. “Let’s all of us together prove that we can do this. The onus is on Minnesotans to get this.”

The governor urged Minnesotans not to frequent Wisconsin bars or other areas that could pose an elevated threat of contracting or spreading COVID-19. And he and health officials asked that Minnesotans continue social distancing, wearing masks and limiting social gatherings when the stay-at-home order lifts.

"I’ve got to trust people making the best decisions, but I would just say, when you’re factoring in your decision, it is about others, too,” he said.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 20 more Minnesotans had died from COVID-19, bringing the statewide fatality number to 683. And another 808 Minnesotans were confirmed positive for the illness of 5,917 tested a day prior.

The deceased were residents in Anoka, Carver, Dakota Hennepin, Itasca and Ramsey counties. Seventeen of them were residents in long-term care facilities.

As of Friday, 498 people were hospitalized across the state, with 200 of those people in an intensive care unit. Another 8,820 who'd been infected no longer need to be isolated.

To honor those who'd died from COVID-19, Walz on Friday ordered all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday, May 19, and on the 19th day of every month through the end of the year.

Officials tracking inflammatory condition in children

State epidemiologists on Friday said they were putting out a call to parents and doctors to report symptoms of an inflammatory condition in children. They said it could be linked to the coronavirus.

Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist, said as more children across the country were admitted to hospitals after exhibiting symptoms of multi-system inflammatory syndrome, the state hoped to track patients who might have the disease.

Symptoms include a fever that lasts longer than 24 hours, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes or changes in skin color, swollen tongue, difficulty breathing and tiredness.

“We’re asking clinicians and patients to keep an eye out for this,” she said.

Lynfield said parents who notice those symptoms in their children should contact a doctor and continue taking steps to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19. The condition is rare and it can be treated in most patients, Lynfield said.

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper righthand corner of the homepage.