Gov. Tim Walz has confirmed that Minnesota's Stay at Home order will continue for a further two weeks, extending it until May 18.
The governor announced his decision at a Thursday press conference, but with it comes some changes that will allow all Minnesota's retail businesses and other non-critical businesses to operate curbside operations.
Until now, it's has been retailers selling essential items such as food, alcohol and building materials that have been allowed to stay open, a move that has predominantly benefited larger stores.
The closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars, as well as large sporting, music and other entertainment events and attractions, malls, and places of worship, has also been extended to May 18.
Gov. Walz has said an announcement is also forthcoming on allowing the resumption of elective medical procedures, confirming BMTN's story from earlier on Thursday.
Allowing retail and non-critical businesses to offer curbside pick-up will put a further 30,000 people back to work, though businesses are required to develop and publicly post plans about how they will open safely, use online payments where possible, and have employees and customers wear masks and protective equipment.
"From building out critical hospital capacity to launching a landmark testing strategy, Minnesota has made meaningful progress in preparing for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Walz said.
"Minnesotans have made this possible by staying home and holding down the rate of infection. But now is not the time for sudden movements. There’s more work to be done, and we need to keep this virus at a simmer, not a boil. Our action today prioritizes the safety of Minnesotans while taking cautious, strategic steps toward getting people safely back to work."
While not making it a requirement, Gov. Walz has "strongly encouraged all Minnesotans to wear a manufactured or homemade mask at all times when they leave their homes to any place where social distancing is difficult."
Gov. Walz has previously said multiple factors multiple factors go into the decision over whether to extend the order, and while the state's hospital capacity is increasing, testing capacity isn't quite yet at the 5,000-a-day level he wants – though that should be surpassed in the coming weeks.
It also comes as Minnesota continues to handle large outbreaks of COVID-19 at meat processing plants in Nobles and Stearns counties, and rising deaths in the state's long-term care facilities that could be further exacerbated if the entire state was reopened and the rate of coronavirus cases jumps.
Nonetheless, Walz was more positive on the outlook for the state, noting that deaths and hospital stays haven't been increasing exponentially, while there have been breakthroughs in testing, and encouraging news at the national level about trials of therapeutic antivirals, notably remdesivir.
The loosening of restrictions for smaller retailers has been backed by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, but he thinks that they should be allowed to open their stores to foot traffic.
"Main Street businesses have been forced for weeks to remain closed while big box stores have been able to keep their doors open – I know Minnesota retailers have been planning and are ready to safely serve customers in a curbside setting, but if their large competitors can be open to customer traffic, our smaller retailers should be extended the same opportunity and trust by the governor," he said.
He also called on Walz to "move quickly" to help other businesses reopen their doors even before the extended Stay at Home order is over.