All COVID-19 restrictions on businesses will be lifted completely by May 28, with the face mask mandate following by July, Gov. Tim Walz has announced.
The governor will confirm the three-phase at a noon press conference, with looser restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings starting as soon as Friday, before all COVID restrictions on businesses are brought to an end on May 28, before Memorial Day weekend.
That will be followed July 1 with the end of the face mask mandate – which could happen sooner if Minnesota reaches 70% of adults vaccinated.
This will not mean that private businesses can't require face masks for entry.
Here is the timeline:
Noon, May 7: Removal of limits for outdoor dining, events, and other get-togethers, and ends the mask requirement outdoors except at large venues with over 500 people. This could see full capacity return to, for example, Twins and Minnesota United games.
The 11 p.m. mandatory closing time for bars, restaurants, and other food and drink businesses will also come to an end.
May 28: Remaining capacity and distancing limits will come to an end, including for indoor events and gatherings.
The only requirements that will remain will be face mask requirements for indoor and outdoor events with more than 500 people.
July 1 (or sooner if Minnesota hits 70% of adults vaccinated): The remaining face mask mandate ends, as does the requirement for businesses to have COVID preparedness plans. Local governments/cities can implement their own face mask mandates if they wish, as can private businesses.
At the current rate of vaccinations, Minnesota should reach 70% of adults vaccinated by June 8, though this may be pushed back as rates are slowing.
What isn't changing: Walz says the Safe Learning Plan for schools will continue through the end of the school year as children are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Also staying in place is the eviction moratorium, the ban on price gouging, and eligibility exemptions for state services.
'We can safely set out our path back to normal'
The release says the state "will continue its emergency efforts" as it continues its testing and vaccine efforts amid the growth of new COVID variants. But it does not mention what will happen with the governor's emergency powers.
“Our nation-leading vaccination effort has put us in a strong position to safely transition toward life as we used to know it,” said Gov. Walz. “The pandemic is not over and we have work to do. But from the State Fairgrounds, to doctor’s offices, to retrofitted Metro Transit buses that deliver vaccines where they’re most needed, Minnesotans now have more opportunities than ever to get the vaccine when and where they want to.
"As cases recede, more people get vaccinated every day, and vaccines are readily available to all who want it, we can now confidently and safely set out our path back to normal."
Capacity restrictions on businesses including restaurants and bars have been in place since the very first Stay at Home order in mid-March 2020, though since then restrictions have been gradually loosened to allow more people indoors, except for the mandatory shutdown in November and December as Minnesota experienced its worst peak of the virus.
Since the start of the pandemic, 7,191 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19, with thousands more being hospitalized with the deadly virus.
Minnesota is currently on the way down from a smaller peak of COVID-19 cases, which was driven despite rising vaccinations by the more contagious B.117 U.K. variant of the virus.
Health officials have cautioned that Minnesota isn't out of the woods yet, considering the recent fall in cases has leveled off somewhat, while there has been a drop in demand for vaccinations.
Much of the recent cases has circulated among younger generations including school-age children, most of whom returned to in-person classed at the beginning of March.