Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he’s “turning the dial” again for Minnesota businesses, allowing restaurants to host patio seating – adding to their new “to-go” and curbside repertoire. Salons and barbershops were also given the go-ahead, too, with all in this most recent group given a June 1 start date.
But it was Walz’s decision to not open churches – and the mandates placed on restaurants to remain outside – that received the biggest criticism from both supporters and those who have railed against the way the Governor has handled the COVID-19 response. Churches are pushing back – to the point where the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul has told its members to hold Mass services – if they choose – as early as Tuesday, May 26.
Walz also gave the go-ahead to campgrounds, but they’ll be missing one of the year’s largest weekends – Memorial Day – creating a new sector that will see financial hardship due to lost business.
Science, Walz said, is keeping him from moving more quickly to open business, and some of the statistics back him. Even as the state slowly re-opens, which began on May 18, transitioning to “Stay Safe” vs. “Stay Home,” COVID-19 deaths have been adding up – with the state expecting more than 1,000 before we arrive at June 1. Hospitalizations are also up with the state’s hospitals nearly maxed out on critical care beds – but units set up just for the COVID response are still waiting for patients.
“It is going to get worse here, this virus, before it gets better. That is an absolute guarantee,” Walz said. “We haven’t hit our peak – that’s coming sometime in July. But we also know it’s not sustainable to keep everything locked down.”
Outdoor dining can begin on June 1, with restaurants maintaining social distancing and seating no more than 50 patrons at a time. In addition to outdoor dining, restaurants and bars will be able to continue to offer takeout, curbside, and delivery services, which have been permitted throughout the pandemic in Minnesota. While Minnesota has ranked first in the nation for takeout and delivery patronage during the outbreak of COVID-19, restaurants and bars have been closed for in-person dining since March 17. Since then, the State of Minnesota has worked with the health care sector to expand health care capacity and procure ICU beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.
“It’s important for all Minnesotans to remember that they have a big role to play in making this reopening process successful,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “By continuing to follow social distancing guidelines, wearing masks, washing hands, and staying home when sick, we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable friends and family members.”
Salons and barbershops will be allowed to reopen on June 1 with only 25 percent occupancy and additional safety measures in place.
“While all Minnesotans are eager to get a haircut, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our salons and barbershops that put their businesses on hold in order to allow the state time to prepare for COVID-19,” Governor Walz continued. “With the addition of safety measures like personal protective equipment and a limited number of people inside, it’s safe to say we’re not going back to normal. But we can cautiously turn the dial back as Minnesotans continue to do their part to stay safe. Make a reservation, wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re feeling sick.”
“Now is the time for innovative solutions as we navigate a new normal, support our favorite businesses and ensure the safety of workers and customers,” said Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. “This phased approach to reopening our economy is rooted in safety for everyone, and will ensure we can continue to put more Minnesotans back to work and make data-driven decisions at every turn of the dial.”