Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that he will extend the state’s peacetime emergency until mid-June, but he will allow the stay-at-home order to expire next week.
Retail stores may reopen on May 18, but they must have safety plans in place, and operate at 50% capacity.
Bars, restaurants, salons and gyms can reopen on June 1 with certain restrictions in place, which Walz says are still being worked out.
He also recommends that gatherings of family and friends do not exceed 10 people. The stay-at-home-order, which Walz dubbed “Stay Home MN,” will transition into what he calls, “Stay Safe MN.”
The announcement was made on the same day that the state reached a one-day COVID-19 testing record of 6,700 Minnesotans.
“Seeing what was coming we told you we weren’t ready. We asked you to slow the spread of the virus by staying home, we told you we needed time to prepare for this fight. We have used that time wisely,” Walz said. “We have successfully pushed out and reduced the peak of this virus.”
The state’s peacetime emergency, which was set to expire on May 13, gives the governor power to issue executive orders, stay-at-home orders and close businesses during the pandemic. It also allowed the state to set up partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to increase the number of tests being given.
Walz said that this is not a full-scale turn of the dial back toward normal.
“This is not the time for sudden movements,” Walz said. “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.”
Republican State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says he applauds the governor’s move.
“We’re moving in the right direction. This is really good news. I’m glad that he listened to us and I feel like we lead the way. Now it’s up to us, you and me, that we practice safe distancing. I have every confidence we’re going to be able to do it. Minnesota is back on track,” Gazelka said.
Republicans in the State House and Senate have been critical of the Democratic governor’s unilateral authority, and have been withholding support of his $2 billion bonding bill until he relinquishes his emergency powers.
An extension of the peacetime emergency order will also allow him to keep schools closed.
The announcement comes as states across the country are beginning to loosen restrictions and end stay-at-home orders all before achieving many of the goals set by federal guidelines for safely reopening, most of which are determined by which direction the number of new cases and coronavirus-related deaths are going.
In late April, Walz relaxed the rules for businesses slightly, allowing up to 20,000 companies to resume operations, impacting about 80,000 to 100,000 workers. Curbside pickup for retail stores was also allowed, as long as certain guidelines were followed.