The next steps in the reopening of Minnesota's economy were introduced by Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday. While extending the state's Stay at Home order until May 18, more retailers will be allowed to reopen for curbside pick-up and delivery.
In a section of his presentation titled "COVID-19 Response Milestones," Walz recapped what's happened since the coronavirus outbreak began in early March and looked ahead to what could happen in "May and beyond."
Walz said it's likely that he'll modify the executive order and begin allowing Minnesotans to schedule elective surgeries and procedures in early May, followed by more "customer-facing businesses" getting back to work along with small family gatherings resuming.
Among the next items that could see restrictions loosened:
- Some customer-facing businesses.
- Small family gatherings.
- Places of worship.
- High-contact businesses like barber shops and salons.
"It's our belief that some of this can happen between now and May 18," said Walz.
Salons and barber shops can now reopen the retail side of things so they can sell products, but they still cannot open and deal with customers face-to-face for haircuts.
"Those who are saying that we should open up all businesses tomorrow because this thing isn't that serious and we overreacted, they are wrong," Walz stated.
If things go well with retailers now allowed to reopen for curbside pick-up and delivery, Walz said it's possible that he could modify the order before May 18 and allow limited in-store shopping.
Minnesota has used a dial diagram show show where things stand in three areas: workplace settings, social settings and school settings. The dial has been turned up, thus loosening restrictions, for workplace settings, but it remains dialed all the way down for social and school settings.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Minnesota has accelerated as testing has increased, with nearly 500 new confirmed cases reported Thursday to bring the statewide total since March 6 to 5,136.
While Minnesota has flattened the curve overall, Walz said the curve is beginning to rise and hot spots are still popping up around the state, most notably in Nobles County where there have been more than 700 cases fueled by an outbreak at the JBS USA pork plant in Worthington.
"We basically went from zero tests to 700 positives in 10 days," Walz said of the outbreak in Nobles County. "The per capita infection rate in Nobles County approaches New York City, and that happened a week ago Sunday to today."
There are approximately 22,000 residents in Nobles County, with 3.37% of those residents testing positive for the virus. One person has died of COVID-19 in Nobles County, according to state health officials.
Walz estimated that the peak of the outbreak in Minnesota is now most likely to arrive in late May or early June, though the number of patients that could require critical care and ventilators could be dropping from earlier projections.