ST PAUL, Minn. — On Friday, Governor Tim Walz announced in a press release that he has signed an executive order to expand capacity limits for certain spaces in Minnesota due to progress made on COVID-19 vaccinations. Restaurants will also be able to stay open later.
Effective Saturday, Feb. 13 at 12 p.m., the new executive order will:
- Increase the “not to exceed” capacity in restaurants to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 50%
- Increase indoor entertainment “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25%
- Increase the "not to exceed" capacity at private events and celebrations such as weddings to 50, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25%
- Increasing gym and pool “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving maximum capacity at 25%, and reducing distancing requirement to 6 feet
- Allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m.
“Our small businesses have made enormous sacrifices for the health of their employees and communities,” said Governor Walz in the release. “Today, we can make these cautious, common sense adjustments to support them because of the progress we have made controlling the spread of COVID-19 and getting the most at-risk Minnesotans vaccinated.”
According to the governor's office, hospitalizations and the COVID-19 positivity rate continue to decline, though Walz also warned at a Friday news conference that the risk of COVID transmission has not gone away just because test positivity rates are lower in Minnesota.
"By doing this, you do slightly increase the risk," Walz said of the loosened restrictions.
He maintained that masks and social distancing can still mitigate that risk.
"It's a risk that can be balanced," he said. "I feel very confident that this is a good move."
Walz said his administration is trying to listen to Minnesota businesses while making the right choices for public health.
"The wedding industry and these venues asked for us to go to 50 and that's what we did today," he said.
Walz said restaurants asked him, "Why are we closing at 10 now when it looks like the data shows that we can be open a little longer?"
The governor said he agreed, which is why the new restrictions push that closing mandate to 11 p.m.
Currently in Minnesota, restaurants, bars, gym facilities and entertainment venues have a 150-person capacity limit. Wedding receptions and other private events are limited to two households or 10 people indoors, and three households or 15 people outdoors if food or drink is served. Events without food or drink are guided by rules for ceremonies and places of worship, which are open at 50% capacity without a maximum capacity.