Minnesota’s emergence from shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic inched forward Wednesday, as Gov. Tim Walz announced limited openings of a number of sectors of society and the economy, but not until June 1.
With the lilacs in bloom and Memorial Day weekend approaching, the delay until June 1, combined with remaining restrictions left unlifted, was met with unease, confusion and complaints from those affected, including business associations and religious groups — even drawing a vow of disobedience from the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Walz and the state’s health commissioner defended the tepid steps as warranted under the principle that the closer people are, the longer the duration of their contact and the less predictable situation, then the more dangerous it is.
Still, he acknowledged, “It’s so maddening, I know.”
The announcements ease — or glaringly don’t — a broad sweep of activities for a society that is both eager to embark on summer and anxious amid an outbreak that continues to grow. Dining, drinking, camping, worshiping, sports playing, charter fishing and, of course, hair styling are among areas affected.
Here’s what Walz announced Wednesday as part of what he billed as Phase II of the state’s “Stay Safe” reopening plan — and what remains.
(Details can be found by going to MN.gov/COVID19 and clicking on “Stay Safe Plan” at the bottom. A detailed breakdown of many sectors can be found at MN.gov/DEED/guidance.)
Restaurants and bars can reopen June 1 — but only to outdoor dining at 50 percent capacity.
More restrictions: Reservations required; masks mandatory for staff, strongly encouraged for patrons up and about, groups no larger than four (six for a family), and 6 feet of distance between parties.
The outdoors-only restriction dashed hopes for restaurant owners who had rearranged interiors in hopes of indoor service. It also immediately raised a host of regulatory questions that state officials essentially punted to local governments, as Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove asked municipal officials to “get creative.”
Hospitality Minnesota, the state’s largest trade group for the restaurant industry, called the news “surprising and disappointing.” In a statement, the group said: “While it’s good for those restaurants that are able to offer outdoor seating, it will leave many behind around our state who cannot host patrons in an outdoor patio setting … another disastrous setback for them.”
Barbers and hair stylists will be allowed to resume haircuts (indoors) June 1. Tattoo parlors, nail salons and other personal service businesses will also be able to reopen, but don’t expect a pampered experience.
Restrictions: By appointment only, 25 percent capacity, masks mandatory for both clients and workers, and in some cases, workers will be told to use protective face shields.
Nothing changes June 1 for churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship.
That means no groups larger than 10 — indoors or out. And that was not well-received.
On Wednesday evening, Archbishop Bernard Hebda and the Rev. Dr. Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, jointly announced they will start holding services in defiance of Walz’s order.
Both public and private campgrounds — that includes state parks, camper cabins, national forests and RV parks — can reopen June 1. Until then, only dispersed backcountry camping is allowed.
Restrictions: The Department of Natural Resources has a bevy of rules. They range from restricting most campsites to members of a single household to best practices regarding common shower and bathroom facilities.
Hospitality Minnesota said RV parks were hoping for sooner than June 1. The group noted the short length of the summer camping season and said that “cabins on wheels” naturally provide for safe social distancing.
As the season for Little League baseball and the annual cornucopia of sports camps and traveling leagues approaches, parents, organizers and kids remain unclear about what’s to come.
Technically, no changes were announced Wednesday, which appears to leave the following restrictions in place: groups of up to 10 can practice — if they keep 6 feet apart — but no competitive games can be played. Many associations are planning to start practice June 1.
Nothing new was announced Wednesday, which leaves the following restrictions currently in place:
Across the state, day camps have struggled with how to proceed. Some have announced delayed openings, such as early July, while others have said they’re planning to open earlier but are still in the process of drafting procedures. Day care centers have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Walz has allowed them to accept older children.
Charter fishing boats, including salmon excursions on Lake Superior and walleye “launches” on Lake Mille Lacs, will be allowed to cast off with customers June 1.
Restrictions: The DNR has a list of rules. The most significant will likely be a requirement to allow 6 feet of separation between crew members and anyone not in the same household. It’s unclear if such restrictions will be possible for all charter vessels.
Under Walz’s plan — which he is free to apply or revise under his emergency powers — the next phase of reopening could allow the following:
However, Walz gave no timeline for any of these.