Today, Governor Tim Walz announced the next phase of the COVID-19 response in Minnesota. Citing progress made to prepare for peak of infection, the Governor announced a measured, cautious turning of the dial toward a new normal. With the Stay Home Executive Order set to expire on May 18, the Governor will replace it with an order continuing to encourage Minnesotans to stay close to home but allowing for gatherings of friends and family of 10 people or less. The Governor will also open retail stores and other main street businesses if they have a social distancing plan and operate at 50 percent occupancy.
“Minnesotans, thank you for your continued sacrifices,” Governor Walz said. “You have saved thousands of lives. You successfully pushed out the peak of this virus and bought our state time to get ready to treat those who fall ill. We know there’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we have made great progress to prepare for it.”
“This is not the time for sudden movements,” Governor Walz continued. “We are not flipping a switch and going back to normal all at once. We are slowly moving a dial and introducing more interaction between people over time. As we take cautious steps forward, it is more important than ever that we protect those most at risk, support workers, and all do our part to slow the spread of the virus.”
In conjunction with this announcement today, the Governor signed Executive Orders to protect Minnesotans most at risk from the virus and safeguard workers. The first Executive Order strongly encourages Minnesotans at greatest risk of serious illness to continue staying home. The second Executive Order ensures workers can raise concerns regarding the safety of their work environments without fear of discrimination or retaliation. It also protects workers from loss of income if they refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
“As we slowly and cautiously move the dial, we are centering Minnesota workers in our decisions,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “At this moment, worker protections are paramount. Minnesotans with underlying conditions can and should continue staying home to protect their health, and those who return to work can and should raise concerns about the health and safety practices of their workplaces without fear of discrimination or retaliation. That’s how we stay safe together.”
Following the guidance of public health officials, the Governor today announced a preliminary set of health indicators that could trigger a decision to re-impose restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. These indicators will be refined over time as we learn more about the virus and the course of the pandemic in Minnesota. They include the number of COVID-19 tests that can be conducted as well as the rate of increase in:
• Number of new COVID-19 cases
• Percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive
• Percent of COVID-19 cases for which the source of infection is unknown
“Minnesota is still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and we will be dealing with its impacts for many months,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We’ve made encouraging progress on preparedness and on safeguarding our most vulnerable, and that work will continue. As Governor Walz adjusts the state’s response and guidance to meet current and future needs, we will continue to track the course of the pandemic and apply the many things we are learning about the virus and its risks. Our goal is to protect the most vulnerable Minnesotans while also learning how to live with this pandemic until a vaccine becomes widely available.”
When the Stay Home MN order ends on May 18, the Governor announced today that he will be replacing it with a new order that brings back more social interactions. Titled “Stay Safe MN,” Minnesotans are still asked to stay close to home and limit travel to what is essential. But the order allows gatherings with friends and family in groups of 10 or less with social distancing. In all cases, Minnesotans are asked not to gather in large groups. All gatherings are limited to 10 and social distancing with masks, hand-washing and other safety measures should be followed to protect each other.
An additional executive order announced today will allow retail stores, malls, and main street businesses to reopen for in-person shopping as long as they have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place that incorporates social distancing protocols for workers and customers and limits occupancy to no more than 50 percent of the establishment’s occupant capacity. The Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) estimates that this action will enable up to 37,000 more workers to safely return to work over the next several weeks. Additional guidance, including a template plan and checklist for businesses, is available on DEED’s website at mn.gov/deed/safework.
“Ensuring the health and safety of workers and customers is the top priority as we gradually reopen our economy and put more people back to work,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We have worked closely with our state’s business community and labor organizations and listened to Minnesotans across the state about our next steps, and we’re eager to see more businesses expand operations with the necessary safety protocols in place.”
The Governor also announced today that he is directing his cabinet to assemble similar guidance on how to safely re-open bars, restaurants, barbershops, and salons beginning June 1. This will coincide with a significant increase in testing, tracing, and isolating the virus in the state.
The Governor today also extended his peacetime emergency authority until June 12. Extending the peacetime emergency in Minnesota allows the Governor to keep his toolbox open so he can take critical, swift action to protect Minnesotans. Being in a peacetime state of emergency has allowed Minnesota to: enhance protections for veterans in our veterans homes; activate the National Guard to assist in relief efforts; provide economic relief and stability to those impacted by the pandemic; and more.