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As Minnesota reopens, Walz says mask-wearing and distancing still vital

The practice of wearing face masks will be the 'last thing to go,' Walz said.

While restrictions have been loosened to allow Minnesotan to return to sports and large events, and restaurants to open at greater capacity, some crucial orders and advice for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 remain very much in place.

And top of the list is the statewide mask mandate, which remains in Gov. Tim Walz's view the key safeguard in preventing any major recurrence of the virus, saying Friday that "the last thing to go will be masks."

"It's just so effective, and cost effective" at preventing COVID-19 spread, Walz said, which is particularly vital in the face of SARS-CoV-2 variants that vaccines may be less effective against.

Social distancing of six feet between parties still remains the state's recommended guidance, as does the recommendation that all Minnesotans should stay at home when they're sick.

Just as vital is access to testing, which will remain free/covered by insurance, with Walz encouraging Minnesotans to take advantage of the wide availability of COVID tests, which you can find here.

Minnesota's vaccine rollout has accelerated along with the rate at the federal level in recent months, and Walz said Friday that the last Minnesotans in line for a vaccine should be able to get a dose by early June.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that states should make vaccines available to all adults by May 1, but the Walz Administration noted that even though all adults will be eligible by then or before, it doesn't necessarily mean the supply will be there to get everyone vaccinated immediately.

"We're beating this thing, we may be not at the end but we're darn near the end," Walz said. "These variants are a risk, but we can control it with our speed, and we can control it with our behaviors, continuing to mask up and social distance."

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The Minnesota Medical Association said the loosening of restrictions announced Friday "moves us an additional step" towards the moment "when COVID-19 no longer dominates our daily lives," but also echoed Walz's call for Minnesotans to take precautions.

"We still have a long way to go – nearly 80 percent of our fellow Minnesotans still need to be vaccinated," said MMA President Marilyn Peitso, MD. "The virus variants that have been found in the state and across the country demand caution and have the potential to slow and even reverse our progress.

"We recognize that Minnesotans are tired of this pandemic. Healthcare workers are tired, too. Please help us get over the finish line. When you get your chance, get the shot. Continue to practice good health by wearing masks in public, wash hands frequently, remain socially distant, and seek care when you have symptoms."

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