Minnesotans looking for a return to normal – or some sort of “new normal” – were greeted with positive news from Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday night, as the state’s top official eased back on a number of restrictions that have been in place since late March.
Governor Tim Walz announced the next phase of the COVID-19 response in Minnesota with a special address to the state at 6 p.m. on May 13. Citing progress made to prepare for peak of infection, the Governor announced a measured, cautious turning of the dial toward a new normal.
Walz said the state will transition from “Stay Home MN” to “Stay Safe MN” over the next few days.
With the Stay Home Executive Order set to expire on May 18, the Governor will replace it with an order continuing to encourage Minnesotans to stay close to home but allowing for gatherings of friends and family of 10 people or less. The Governor will also open retail stores and other main street businesses if they have a social distancing plan and operate at 50 percent occupancy. Additional guidance, including a template plan and checklist for businesses, is available on DEED’s website at mn.gov/deed/safework.
“Minnesotans, thank you for your continued sacrifices,” Walz said. “You have saved thousands of lives. You successfully pushed out the peak of this virus and bought our state time to get ready to treat those who fall ill. We know there’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we have made great progress to prepare for it.”
In conjunction with this announcement, the Governor signed Executive Orders to protect Minnesotans most at risk from the virus and safeguard workers. The first Executive Order strongly encourages Minnesotans at greatest risk of serious illness to continue staying home. The second Executive Order ensures workers can raise concerns regarding the safety of their work environments without fear of discrimination or retaliation. It also protects workers from loss of income if they refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
Following the guidance of public health officials, the Governor Wednesday announced a preliminary set of health indicators that could trigger a decision to re-impose restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
“These indicators will be refined over time as we learn more about the virus and the course of the pandemic in Minnesota,” Walz said.
The indicators include the number of COVID-19 tests that can be conducted as well as the rate of increase in:
- Number of new COVID-19 cases
- Percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive
- Percent of COVID-19 cases for which the source of infection is unknown
Minnesotans are still asked to stay close to home and limit travel to what is essential. In all cases, Minnesotans are asked not to gather in large groups. All gatherings are limited to 10 and social distancing with masks, hand-washing and other safety measures should be followed to protect each other.
While many businesses will open, some will see continued limitations and closures until plans are in place to fully open them by June 1. Those industries include salons, barbers, restaurants and bars, as well as fitness centers and gyms. Walz said MDH and DEED will continue to work with those industries on a safe re-opening, offering guidance and planning while continuing with programs for government assistance.
In summary, here’s what changes with the order’s expiration at 12:01 a.m. on May 18:
- Retail can re-open with plan for 50 percent of max occupancy
- People can gather in groups of 10 or less
- Families can gather
- Movement reductions lifted – travel eased
- Outdoor sports – with distancing (practices)
Here’s what remains “in the works:”
- Bars and restaurants can continue curbside, but not fully open
- Gyms, fitness centers, etc. must create plan to re-open with guidance offered by state on May 20, 2020
- Salons, barbers and spas can create plans to re-open with guidance offered by state on May 20, 2020
- Theaters – movie and stage – can create plans to re-open with guidance offered by state on May 20, 2020
Key dates coming up:
May 18: The “Stay Home MN” order ends, allowing the opening of retail shops at reduced capacity. Travel restrictions lift for all Minnesotans. Limits remain for those 65 and older. Also, people who can work from home should continue to do so.
May 20: State will release guidance for safe reopening of restaurants, bars and salons/barbers.
June 1: State’s hopeful date for starting to open restaurants, bars, barbershops and salons.
June 12: New “Stay Safe MN” decree from Governor expires. If Walz renews his emergency powers for another 30 days, Minnesota lawmakers must return to St. Paul for a special session.