Bars and restaurants in Minnesota will be able to open up to indoor service again, starting Monday.
In a statement provided Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced restrictions that went into effect on Nov. 20, 2020, to slow the spread of COVID-19, will be loosened. The decision comes after the situation surrounding the novel coronavirus has improved in Minnesota over the past month.
“The situation in Minnesota is undeniably better than it was last month,” Walz said. “We have reasons to be optimistic, and Minnesotans’ sacrifice and commitment to their communities helped change the pandemic’s trajectory and saved lives. But we need to protect the progress we’ve made.”
Perhaps the most notable provision of the revised order is that it allows indoor dining at bars and restaurants, with some conditions. Indoor dining is permitted at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people. Parties of no more than six people must remain 6 feet from other parties; bar seating is open to parties of two; reservations are required; and establishments must close dine-in service by 10 p.m.
Other parts of the order include:
• Gym capacity remains capped at 25%, but maximum capacity increases to 150 and classes can increase to 25 people, assuming distancing can be observed. Machines and people must maintain 9 feet of distance. Face coverings are required;
• Outdoor events and entertainment continue at 25% capacity, but maximum capacity increases to 250 people. Social distancing is required;
• Indoor events and entertainment such as bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums may open at 25%, no more than 150 people in each area of the venue. Face coverings are required, and they may not offer food service after 10 p.m.;
• Youth and adult organized sports have resumed practice as of Jan. 4, and games resume Jan. 14, with spectators, following the appropriate capacity limits for indoor and outdoor venues. Inter-region tournaments and out-of-state play are discouraged;
• Pools opened on Jan. 4 for some activity and may now open, like gyms, at 25% capacity;
• Wedding receptions and other private parties may resume with limits. If food and drink are served at the event, then they are limited to two households or 10 people indoors, and three households or 15 people outdoors. If there is no food or drink, they are covered by event guidelines. Any related ceremony — like a wedding or funeral — is guided by rules for ceremonies and places of worship; and
• Places of worship remain open at 50% capacity, but without an overall maximum capacity.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said in a statement that the loosened restrictions were not enough, and called on Gov. Walz to resign.
“Over the past year hundreds of small businesses across our state have been shuttered, thousands have died and all Minnesotans have lived under the rule of one man: Governor Tim Walz.
“Today, the Governor’s announcement to reopen Minnesota partially is just more of the same of his haphazard, back and forth approach,” she said. “Governor Walz is completely out of touch with the challenges we face to support our families and live our lives. A resignation before causing more harm is certainly in order.”
The announcement comes as more and more Minnesotans are receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination and hospital bed use is declining.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced 2,346 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with 67 deaths. Morrison County reported 15 new cases and no deaths on Wednesday.
“As we cautiously adjust the dials to help Minnesotans return to important elements of their daily lives, we continue to monitor where we stand,” Walz said. “Two months ago, the pandemic quickly snowballed from manageable to out-of-control. For our students, our small businesses, and public health, we cannot allow that to happen again.”
The Governor did urge, however, that Minnesotans should continue to take precautions against COVID-19. He, along with public health officials, advised to wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay outside, when possible. Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who believes they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive is implored to get tested.
Though some restrictions remain in place, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said Wednesday’s announcement was a step in a positive direction.
“Today, we can be cautiously optimistic about the progress Minnesotans have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Grove said. “I am thankful for the work and sacrifices the hospitality industry has made to keep their employees, neighbors and communities safe. These efforts pave the way for loosened guidelines, allowing more jobs and more business growth. To keep our economy moving, it’s critical that we remain vigilant in fighting COVID-19 by masking up and staying safe.”
In instituting the new regulations, Walz extended his peace-time emergency powers another month. Those powers have been a major point of derision for Republicans in the Legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), who represents all of Morrison County except Morrill and Lakin townships, has been a vocal in his opposition to the Governor’s powers throughout the pandemic.
“We want to work with him, we don’t want him to have power by himself to make all these decisions,” Gazelka told the Associated Press. “Ultimately, we just need to get the vaccines out to people as quickly as possible because once we do that, everyone can agree that it’s time for emergency powers to go away.”