Stay at Home: Next businesses to reopen in Minnesota could be small retailers

Gov. Tim Walz hinted at the possibility on Thursday.

The next step in the rolling reopening of Minnesota's economy is likely to be small retailers, according to Gov. Tim Walz. 

"These folks that want to reopen businesses, want to do it in a way that protects people," said Walz, speaking Thursday. "It seems to me the logical next place is small retailers across main streets that are doing curbside."

Walz said he understands the logic of Minnesota business owners who argue that it makes no sense that someone can, for example, go into Walmart for groceries and pick up a pair of socks while a small boutique can't reopen despite serving far fewer customers than big box stores. 

"Their logic is absolutely right. We gotta figure out how to do it," Walz said. "I simply refuse to be the test ground for putting people's lives at risk. But I also think we need to be testing smart strategies that combine good public health with a reopening of the economy.

"I think they've [shuttered business owners] done a heckuva lot of work towards that and we should try to get that done." 

Walz, who is expected to address Minnesotans again Friday at 2 p.m., did not say when or what types of small retailers will be allowed to reopen next. The current stay-at-home order expires May 18, which still precedes the anticipated peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Minnesota. 

By May 27, Walz expects there will be at least 1,000 deaths from COVID-19. As of Wednesday at 4 p.m., there are 508 dead and more than 9,500 sickened by the disease in Minnesota since the first case was confirmed in early March. 

The peak in late May or early June means Minnesota will be one of the last states to reach a peak during the first wave of the pandemic. It has saved lives, potentially, but also taken longer to reopen the economy. 

"I would count it that it has been a victory and it will save lives because we've pushed it out," Walz said of Minnesota's peak, "but this was the question very early on trying to strike that balance. It means that the frustrations are longer." 

The rolling reopening of the state's businesses has so far allowed essential workers to continue on, followed by granting permission to non-customer-facing businesses to reopen. Some customer-facing industries have partially reopened with curbside pick-up and delivery options, but non-essential, customer-facing business have remained shuttered since March 16. 

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