Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that bars and restaurants may reopen June 1 for outdoor dining, with salons and barbershops also allowed to resume at 25 percent capacity.
It was the latest move by Walz in what has been a gradual return to normal since the coronavirus pandemic shattered the global economy. Walz said both industries would be either strongly recommended or required to wear masks, make reservations and observe social distancing.
Bars, restaurants and barbershops have been closed since March 17, though the food industry has been able to operate carry-out operations during the period. Walz called it "heartbreaking" to see how much damage the closures have done, and called on Minnesotans to support them as they reopen.
The Democratic governor has drawn increasing criticism from Republicans for his cautious, "turn of the dial" approach to lifting restrictions. Walz has argued that the state needs to move slowly to avoid hastening the spread of the virus and possibly overwhelming hospitals.
"These announcements show exactly why the governor should be working with the Legislature instead of going it alone," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said. "What is the science that allows indoor salon services but restricts restaurants to outdoor seating? Why are churches limited to 10 people outdoors while hundreds of people can gather in the aisles of big box stores?"
Health officials reported 29 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, the second-highest one-day death toll of the pandemic. The new deaths raised the state's total to 777, which includes 635 residents of long-term care facilities. All but three of the new deaths involved residents of long-term care facilities.
The department also reported 645 new confirmed cases for a total of 17,670.
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