The coronavirus pandemic claimed more victims Friday, wiping out nearly all of the city's summer festivals and concerts.
Rochester leaders on Friday said Down by the Riverside, forWARD concert series, Thursdays Downtown, Safe City Nights and Movies in the Park were all being canceled this summer to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The decision was announced on the same day that the state announced the cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair.
City leaders said the decision to cancel the Rochester festivals was held off until it couldn't be avoided any longer. Some of the events involved contracts that incurred a financial obligation if the city waited too long.
Still, it was a hard decision to make, said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton.
"Who wanted to do it?" Norton said when asked about the timing. "We were waiting to see what was happening with the state, what the COVID numbers looked like."
With the state projecting a COVID-19 trajectory that could reach a peak in July, the festivals became another casualty of the pandemic, just as sports seasons and other large-gathering events have become.
"Rochester really celebrates its summer. We have Rochesterfest and Down by the Riverside and Thursdays on First. These are all annual celebrations that we all look forward to. So if we didn't have to cancel them, we didn't want to. So we waited. It's becoming clearer by the day that this (pandemic) isn't going to allow us to get close to each other in a safe way," Norton said.
The decision was made as the Minnesota Department of Health reported 33 more deaths and 813 more confirmed infections, bringing the number of fatalities in the state to 813 and cases to 19,005. The total number of long-term care deaths related to COVID-19 is now 688.
Estimates by the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy are that around 5 percent of the total population has been infected, including people who haven't been tested or diagnosed.
The decision was made even as Gov. Walz's stay-at-home order expired last Monday and some restrictions on restaurants and bars were relaxed this week.
Officials are still hoping to salvage the summer with some kind of event. A number of groups, including the city's Park and Recreation department, are working together to see if an end-of-summer celebration in late August or September is possible.
"We're hanging our hopes on this joint end-of-summer celebration or early fall celebration," Norton said. "We're trying to say, 'We're not going to be able to do what we did before, but could we do something else.'"