Updated: May 20, 2020 07:59 PM
Created: May 20, 2020 01:50 PM
Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday the state will implement a phased reopening of bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons. However, he says health clubs still cannot reopen and the governor plans to continue restricting church services to 10 people or less inside or outside. The Minnesota Catholic Conference representing all the bishops in the state immediately said it would not comply with the governor's order.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead for Minnesotans, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic:
As of Monday, the former ‘stay at home’ order was lifted and the “Stay Safe MN” plan was put into place.
Moving forward, Gov. Tim Walz said June 1 marks the second phase of the “Stay Safe MN” plan.
Under this phase, Walz said limited, outdoor seating at restaurants and limited capacity of salons and barbershops will be allowed.
In terms of upcoming guidelines for bars and restaurants during this phase, outdoor dining—with tables set six feet apart, a cap set at 50 people, and individual parties of no more than four to six people—will be allowed. Reservations will be required. Employees will be required to wear masks and customers will be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks, at least upon entrance and exiting.
"They're (restaurants and bars) integral," Walz said. "They're the places where we had first dates, they're the places where we celebrate our anniversaries, they're the places where we gather together on special moments, and they make life just a little bit better … If it's a local brewery or a Juicy Lucy or a walleye dinner, Minnesotans are going to be able to get back out there."
Meanwhile, Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said personal care services—including barbershops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors—will be able to operate in a way that respects social distancing, with a 25% capacity limit, in terms of each business’s fire code. Masks will be required for employees and patrons. Services will be made available by appointment only.
In this phase, campgrounds and charter boat services will be allowed to operate. Campground operators must ensure the socially-distant configuration of campsites, and charter boating must occur in a way that respects social distancing.
Guidance under this second phase states day camps for children are OK, provided they allow groups no larger than 10. Overnight camps are not allowed in this phase.
The governor said churches would continue to be restricted in Phase 2, but couldn't easily explain why bars can have up to 50 people outside and churches can only have 10 or less.
"I confess on this one," the governor said. "That we struggle on some of these and there is not a perfect answer. I think the logic behind it.... was the predictability of who's there, but I think you could argue, boy, I see the same people every week at my congregation and the Smiths sat in the same pew every year for 30 years so we know exactly where they're at, we know exactly where they are.' I just want to say I think there is a very strong sense of urgency to figure this piece out around churches."
Minnesota's Catholic bishops didn't wait for him to figure it out.
"Given our willingness to coordinate with the governor, we are especially disappointed that his most recent order does not address both the vital importance that faith plays in the lives of Americans, especially in this pandemic, and the fundamental religious freedom possessed by houses of worship," a letter said, in part.
The bishops went on to authorize parishes to hold Mass beginning Tuesday, May 26 with no more than one-third capacity and proper social distancing.
Although state leaders have not yet identified dates for upcoming phases, Grove said the third phase of the “Stay Safe MN” order will include the following:
Walz said as the situation in Minnesota remains fluid, state leaders are prepared to move the dial back if necessary, given it reportedly takes 14-21 days to see the effects of how decisions change virus numbers.
Current state of COVID-19 in Minnesota
Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 645 new positive COVID-19 cases, moving the state total to 17,670 cases. MDH also reported 29 new deaths, pushing the state's total to 777 total deaths. Of that overall total, 635 have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities, according to MDH.
According to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, the virus peak in Minnesota is expected sometime in July, but could be anywhere from late June to August.
Currently, Malcolm said virus hospitalizations are continuing to rise at a measured pace, and that some intensive care units are nearing capacity.
Meanwhile, Malcolm said case growth is significantly concentrated in the metro, however, cases in eight counties with food production plants are also significant.
Although Malcolm said health systems throughout the state have made considerable progress in building hospital capacity and personal protective equipment stores, "we're not past this (virus)" and there remains a need to social distance and make measured decisions.
In terms of testing, Walz said there was a hope to be able to reach a 20,000-test-per-day goal at the end of May, however, the state hasn’t yet reached that goal. Currently, the state has the capacity to test 10,000 people per day, Walz said.
Walz ended the news conference by thanking Minnesotans during these “challenging times,” adding he wishes he could tell Minnesotans that the next steps in the midst of this pandemic are clear and obvious.
"I have to weigh, first and foremost the safety of Minnesotans and balance that against our longterm economic wellbeing and our mental health and our societal wellbeing. It requires sacrifice from all of us."
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