Bars and restaurants on Monday can reopen for indoor dining, while museums, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues can also reopen, with restrictions.
Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, Jan. 6, announced loosened restrictions for some businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, starting Monday, Jan. 11.
Walz ordered a ban on indoor dining and entertainment venues and gyms closed in November amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
But on Monday, people can eat inside restaurants and go to museums again, with rules similar to before the "four-week pause" the governor announced before the holidays.
Indoor dining at bars and restaurants can resume at 50% capacity (maximum of 150 people) with service ending by 10 p.m. Party sizes are limited to six people, with bar seating limited to parties of two. Social distancing of 6 feet between tables and reservations are required.
Meanwhile, bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums and other indoor events/entertainment venues can reopen at 25% capacity (no more than 150 people in each area of the venue).
Restrictions on places of worship, wedding receptions, gyms and pools, and other businesses have also been loosened, but must adhere to social distancing, capacity limits, face mask requirements and other mitigation strategies (see at the bottom of the page).
“The situation in Minnesota is undeniably better than it was last month,” Walz said last week. “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.”
Walz and state and national health officials continue to urge caution and for people to follow COVID-19 guidance with regards to wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing their hands.
“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 added last week. “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.”
On Sunday, the state reported 44 new deaths and more than 2,100 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 5,707 and total number of cases to 436,572.
Meanwhile, a new variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Minnesota, with at least five cases.
Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union, said last week it is concerned about the latest dial back of restrictions, worried that it's too soon to tell if there will be a spike in cases from the holidays, which could make reopening schools in some communities unsafe.
The governor told reporters on Friday the state could tighten restrictions again if there's another surge in cases.
The governor's emergency powers, under which he has implemented many of the pandemic restrictions, have been a matter of controversy among both business owners and state lawmakers.
Some Republicans have said revoking the governor's emergency powers is a priority this legislative session. Walz last week reached out to legislative leaders with a pathway to "wind-down" the peacetime emergency that has given him such powers.
Industry leaders and business owners have also been critical of the governor's orders, but are cheering the loosened restrictions.
Hospitality Minnesota, a hospitality industry trade group that has criticized the governor for singling out restaurants and bars with restrictions, cheered the loosened restrictions.
President and CEO Liz Rammer said in a statement:
"It is great news that restaurants, foodservice and other hospitality-related businesses are being allowed to get back to do what they do best. Reopening will bring in much-needed revenue at a desperate time for these businesses. We know that operators committed to following the protocols will keep their guests and workers safe and the data supports this.
"For an industry that provides 300,000 jobs in Minnesota and is integral to every community in the state, the road to recovery is going to be long and we’re very glad to get started."
Here's a look at the other loosened rules (full details can be found on the state's website):
- The capacity at gyms increases to 150 people, but is still capped at 25% capacity. Machines and people must maintain a distance of 9 feet (down from 12 feet). Fitness classes, up to 25 people, are allowed. Face masks are required at all times.
- Pools, which could reopen on Jan. 4 for some activities, may now open at 25% capacity.
- Youth and adult sports, which could begin practicing on Jan. 4 and can begin games on Jan. 14, can now have spectators so long as the venue follows the appropriate capacity limits. Inter-region tournaments and out of state play are discouraged.
- Outdoor events and entertainment can operate at 25% capacity with a maximum of 250 people.
- Places of worship remain open at 50% capacity but without an overall maximum capacity. This includes for weddings and funerals.
- Wedding receptions and private parties can resume with l restrictions. If there's no food or drink being served, they follow the event guidelines above. If there is food and drink, tables must be limited to two households or 10 people indoors and three households/15 people outdoors.