Minnesota Covid Restrictions to End By July 1
No masks will likely be required for Fourth of July celebrations in Minnesota. Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced a three-step timeline to lift most state Covid-19 capacity restrictions by May 28 and end the statewide masking requirement by July 1—or sooner if 70 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and older are vaccinated.
More than 2.6 million Minnesotans—59 percent of the population— have gotten at least one Covid vaccine, putting the state on track to vaccinate 70 percent of Minnesotans by the end of June.
Restrictions will be lifted in three steps:
May 7 at noon: Mask requirements for outdoor dining, events, and other get-togethers will end, except for large events with 500 or more people. It will also eliminate state-established closing times for bars, restaurants, and food/beverage service at other places of public accommodation.
May 28: All remaining capacity and distancing requirements for all indoor gatherings, including bars and restaurants, will be removed. Face covering requirements will remain for indoor and outdoor gatherings with 500 or more people. There will be no new safety requirements for businesses, although they must keep plans in place to keep employees and customers safe (sanitization, etc.).
July 1: The entire statewide mask mandate will end no later than July 1. However, if Minnesota achieves a 70 percent vaccine rate for Minnesotans age 16 and older—meaning that 3,087,404 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine meaning—then it will be lifted sooner. All workplaces, restaurants, and other places can continue to have their own masking policies.
Gov. Walz’s statement to the media also noted that, because the youngest Minnestoans are not yet eligible for the vaccine, the Safe Learning Plan for schools will continue until the end of the school year.
“The pandemic is not over and we have work to do,” Walz said. “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.”
Businesses will, of course, have the option to continue mandating masks if they so choose, the governor said.
“None of what we’re doing here prohibits them from putting [restrictions] into place,” Walz said. Local government agencies also will have the authority to continue their own Covid-19 restrictions, he noted.
Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, added that “smart business owners know that some caution here is advisable.”
“Different businesses will try different things in the coming months, rather than just snapping back to some kind of pre-Covid reality,” Grove said. The time for the state to play a role in business restrictions is “starting to fade,” he said.
Still, it’s evident that many businesses are eager to fully reopen. The “Minnesota Ready” coalition—a group of more than 90 business advocacy groups in the state—said the latest rollback is a “long time coming for businesses who have endured incremental dial turns while simultaneously keeping their businesses afloat and protecting employee and customer safety.”
“The business community – local chambers and coalition members – have been steadfast in their support of employers, understanding their enormous impact on local communities and Minnesota’s economy as a whole,” the coalition said in a statement. Almost a year ago, Minnesota Ready called for Walz to lift all business restrictions.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Senate majority leader Paul Gazelka, who’s long been critical of the governor’s Covid-19 restrictions, quickly said that the latest changes are “not good enough and not soon enough.”
“The emergency is over and the mandates need to end,” Gazelka said in a statement.