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Gov. Tim Walz loosens COVID restrictions on gatherings, live events, restaurants

Walz is set to speak to Minnesotans at 11 a.m. Friday.

Gov. Tim Walz has announced his most sweeping loosening of COVID-19 restrictions yet, which will allow for larger gatherings, restaurant capacities, and up to 10,000 people at sporting events including the Minnesota Twins.

Unless noted for an individual bullet point, all changes go into effect at 12 p.m. Monday, March 15. The changes: 

  • Social gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people for indoor gatherings, both without household limits.
  • Youth sports: Pod size increasing to 50 for outdoor activities.
  • Religious services: Remove occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
  • Celebrations: Follow venue guidance.
  • Bars and restaurants: Increasing allowable occupancy to 75%, up from 50%, with a limit of 250 people. The limits apply separately indoors and outdoors. Bar seating increases to parties of 4.
  • Salons/barbers: Removing the occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
  • Gyms/fitness centers/pools: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%. Outdoor classes can increase to 50 people.
  • Entertainment venues: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%, both indoors and outdoors, with a limit of 250.
  • Seated outdoor venues can add an additional 25% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
  • Non-seated outdoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
  • Seated indoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 3,000 people.
  • Non-seated indoor venues can add an additional 10% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 1,500 people.
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Walz also announced that working from home will no longer required when possible, beginning April 15, though it continues to be strongly recommended. 

"All employers should continue to accommodate employees who wish to work from home," the release said. 

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“This dial turn is possible thanks to all the hard work so many Minnesotans have done,” said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in a release. 

“At the same time, it’s important to not let our guard down until we’ve finished the job. COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities, and we’re seeing the new variants more frequently. We need to keep up the prevention measures like masking, social distancing, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate. Those basic tools – along with the safe and effective vaccines – will help us end this pandemic and get to those brighter days ahead.”

The dialing back of restrictions comes as Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. is making speedy progress on the vaccine front. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that the country's goal is to make sure every adult is eligible for the vaccine by May 1. 

In Minnesota, more than 642,000 people have completed the two-dose vaccine series while more than 1.1 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose. 

This is a developing story. 

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