Governor Tim Walz provided an update on Minnesota's response to the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, with the topic of discussion focused on granting places of worship the ability to reopen at a larger capacity than was announced earlier in the week.
Earlier this week, Walz announced that churches could reopen for indoor services but only allow a maximum of 10 people inside at a time. In an announcement Saturday, after meeting with Minnesota faith leaders, Walz upped the capacity allowance to 25% for places of worship.
Walz met with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and other church leaders this week after faith leaders announced plans to defy the governor's guidance and reopen one-third capacity with strict safety measures in place to do their part in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Walz said in a release. “From a personal and public health perspective, the decision around places of worship has been a challenging one since the beginning of the pandemic. We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine.”
The announcement corresponds with the latest order from Walz, Executive Order 20-62, which provides guidance for safe worship, weddings and funerals to open at 25% capacity – with a maximum of 250 people – beginning May 27 so long as the following requirements are met:
- In all settings, ensure a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between households.
- In indoor settings, occupancy must not exceed 25 percent of the normal occupant capacity as determined by the fire marshal, with a maximum of 250 people in a single self-contained space.
- In outdoor settings, gatherings must not exceed 250 individuals.
The governor noted that the decision was made against the backdrop of metro area hospitals being filled with more and more COVID-19 patients – 563 as of Saturday's update from the Department of Health, including 215 in ICU.
"We understand that there's an inherent risk fo spreading COVID-19," said Walz. "The worst is not yet passed in terms of infections and infection rates."
"To be candid, the 250 number terrifies me," Walz added.