The state of Minnesota has loosened COVID-19 restrictions on retail stores, allowing them to operate at 100% capacity.
When non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen for in-person shopping in mid-May following the statewide shutdown, they were restricted to 50% capacity so long as they had a COVID-19 safety plan.
Now, retailers can be open at 100% capacity, but they must have a COVID-19 preparedness plan, which includes mask and social distancing requirements, the state's Stay Safe MN website says.
Apparently, retail stores have been allowed to operate at full capacity (with COVID safety precautions in place) since August, the Pioneer Press said.
The Minnesota Retailers Association, which noted the new retail capacity clarifications on social media Tuesday, applauded this decision in a statement, saying:
"This move recognizes the short time customers are in retail stores and how the industry has created safe shopping environments for customers and employees. This announcement is welcomed by the vast majority of retailers who recently told MnRA that absent a capacity increase, their viability was in question as the holidays approach."
With these loosened restrictions, the association is encouraging all retailers to ensure occupancy levels allow for proper social distancing and continue to follow the state's retail industry guidance.
Lifting capacity restrictions might not have a significant impact on small stores – they'll be allowed to let in a few more customers at a time – but it does send a message to people that shopping is a relatively safe thing to do during the pandemic, which is expected to be good for business, KSTP reports.
State health officials haven't said shopping is risk-free but overall, shopping when people wear masks and stay 6 feet apart hasn't led to outbreaks. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has urged people to avoid shopping in crowded stores, like on Black Friday, calling it a "higher-risk" activity, while shopping online or picking up orders curbside is listed as a "lower-risk" activity.
Meanwhile, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips for helping people decide if they should go out, noting the more you interact with people – especially if they aren't masks – raises your risk of COVID-19.