Walz plan to end most COVID restrictions by end of May, mask mandate by July 1

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Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz announced the path to ending COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota.

Walz’s three-stage plan will have most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions lifted by mid-summer. Part of that plan includes ending the statewide mask mandate when 70% of Minnesotans ages 16 and older are vaccinated, or by July 1. The state is currently on track to reach that mark by the end of next month.

Restrictions will start loosening beginning on Friday, May 7, with limits for outdoor dining, events and other get-togethers ending. The mask requirement will also end for outdoor settings under 500 people. Additionally, the mandatory closing time for businesses like bars and restaurants will end.

Then, on May 28, the remaining capacity and distancing limits will end, including for indoor events. Face coverings will still be required for both indoor and outdoor events with more than 500 people.

Finally, the mask mandate and requirements for preparedness plans will end by July 1, or when 70% of Minnesotans 16 and older are vaccinated, whichever comes sooner.

Local jurisdictions and businesses can still require masks and other health guidelines beyond July 1.

The eviction moratorium, bans on price gouging and eligibility exemptions for those who receive state services will continue until further notice, Walz’s office said.

Minnesotans can click here to make a vaccine appointment at a Community Vaccination Program site.

More from KSTP.com:

Walz to announce update to Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions Thursday

Minnesota vaccination rates slow down, Walz hints to more ‘normal’ summer

Walz pushes for education funding, plans lifting some COVID restrictions

Walz has said Minnesotans should expect to have a normal-looking summer.

During Thursday’s announcement, in addition to the rollback of restrictions, Walz is expected to include more vaccination efforts in his plans.

Currently, more than 2 million Minnesotans have completed their vaccine series and nearly 60% of eligible Minnesotans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The governor has said several times that having 70% of the state vaccinated is an important threshold to meet.

Walz said the state is getting closer to that every day. Earlier this week, the governor said the state is going up a percentage point about every three days.

Meanwhile, under current restrictions, gyms are open at 50% capacity, restaurants at 75% and workers can go back in the office.

Dr. Kevin Best, with Allina Health, said he has been tracking the virus. For Thursday’s announcement, he said he’s in favor of anything that would give people a little push to get vaccinated.

"It’s very critical," Best said. "I think the one thing everybody can agree on is we are encouraged and looking forward to getting back to a little more of a normal lifestyle and I would say getting vaccinated is the one little thing that everybody can do to be able to move that process a little bit faster."

Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, issued the following statement:

"More than fourteen months ago, we were told we needed two weeks to flatten the curve, protect our health care system, and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. The data clearly shows we’ve made incredible progress reducing case counts and getting Minnesotans vaccinated, but the Governor insists on holding on to powers he doesn’t need — it’s time to open up and end the emergency powers."

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka had the following response:

"My reaction today is simple: Not good enough and not soon enough. The emergency is over and the mandates need to end.

"I said in January, when the vaccines were available to young, healthy people, the emergency is over. We’ve been there for weeks. It’s about time the Governor recognizes that vaccinations were the key. And while Minnesota stumbled mightily out of the gate to vaccinate the most vulnerable, we now have an abundant supply and appointments.

"Senate Republicans have already passed legislation to safely open businesses and venues with a COVID plan in place, we don’t need to wait until Memorial Day.

"We also provided an off-ramp to end the eviction moratorium and passed a bill to prevent one-man control from happening ever again.

"This announcement won’t allow for kids to finish the year with normal graduations and celebrations like prom, or allow normal participation in sports and activities. It’s too late for many to find summer camps and plan vacations in-state. Outdoor spaces are still limited by distancing despite all the evidence that the outdoors is safe. A "normal" summer is still a long way off.

"The Governor continues to lead alone, ignoring our suggestions and the suggestions of the businesses and medical community to find any compromise- especially on the mask mandate. This does not make our job at the Capitol to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes, and on time, any easier."