Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday revealed his updated Stay Safe MN plan for restaurants, schools, gyms and social gatherings ahead of Christmas.
The plan, which is laid out in Executive Order 20-103, prioritizes elementary schools reopening and allows some businesses, like gyms, to reopen with restrictions.
“The sun is rising across Minnesota. Vaccines have arrived and the light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter today than it was at the beginning of this four-week dial back,” Gov. Walz said in a statement. “There is strong evidence we are starting to turn a corner thanks to the hard work of Minnesotans over the last few weeks to keep each other safe.
"But we aren’t out of the woods yet," Walz added. "This way forward will help bridge the gap to vaccination by continuing to protect hospital capacity while prioritizing getting our kids back in the classroom and supporting Minnesotans’ quality of life.”
The four-week pause is set to expire on Friday, Dec. 18. This new order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. that day and remains in effect through Sunday, Jan. 10, at 11:59 p.m.
Here are the highlights of what is included in the governor's new executive order:
- Elementary schools: The state updated the Safe LEarning Plan so starting Jan. 18, elementary schools can choose to operate in-person as long as they can implement mitigation measures, including providing and requiring staff to wear a face shield and mask, as well as offering regular testing.
- Gyms and fitness studios: They can reopen for individual exercise at 25% capacity or a maximum of 100 people. Masks are required at all times (even when exercising) and 12 feet of physical distancing between people is required. Group classes can resume Jan. 4.
- Youth and adult sports: Practices can resume Jan. 4. Meanwhile, organized youth sports activities are no longer directly tied to county case data or school learning model.
- Bars, restaurants and breweries: They are closed for indoor dining, but outdoor service can be offered at 50% capacity or up to 100 people except from 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Tables are limited to four people and must be six feet apart. Delivery, takeout and drive-up service are also allowed.
- Indoor social gatherings: They are not recommended, but people can gather with one other household, up to 10 people in total. (The four-week pause prohibited all social gatherings with people outside of your household.) Masking and social distancing are strongly encouraged.
- Outdoor social gatherings: Since they are seen as less risky, outdoor gatherings are allowed may include up to three households, with a maximum of 15 people, starting Dec. 19. Masking and social distancing are strongly encouraged.
- Outdoor entertainment venues: They can open at 25% capacity, up to 100 people. If food and drink are served, everyone must be seated. Such venues include racetracks, paintball, performance venues, amusement parks and mini-golf.
- Indoor entertainment venues: They remain closed until Jan. 11.
Walz in a statement said hospital capacity is still a concern, but this updated plan will help continue to combat community spread of COVID-19 while also getting kids back into the classroom, noting evolving understanding of the virus has shown young kids are believed to be less susceptible to serious COVID complications.
“This plan prioritizes the health, well-being, and education of our students, while taking precautions to protect the teachers and staff who care for them, so we can begin to help them make up for lost time,” said Lt. Gov, Peggy Flanagan. “The best place for our students to learn is in the classroom. For our youngest learners, in-person learning is critical for their health and development in both the short and long term.”
Walz acknowledged that allowing restaurants and bars to reopen their patios is not a solution for the industry, which is struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-related restrictions, but is a "recognition that some establishments – particularly breweries – have put significant work into making outdoor service possible and this may prove helpful to some."