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Walz extends Stay at Home order to May 18, loosens restrictions for retail

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said they expect this update to allow 30,000 people to go back to work, or approximately 10,000 businesses.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has extended the state's Stay at Home order until May 18, with some loosened restrictions on retail.

The order was previously set to expire May 4. Walz held a news conference Thursday afternoon, beginning by saying, "I think it's time to assess where we’re at."

Retailers are being asked to make a plan outlining how they will reopen while following public health guidelines. They will be allowed to sell their inventory using curbside pickup and delivery beginning on Monday, May 4. The state is recommending that everyone wears masks, including employees and customers.

Bars and restaurants will remain closed for dine-in service until at least May 18.

Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said they expect this update to allow 30,000 people to go back to work, or approximately 10,000 businesses.

It includes any customer-facing retail establishment in Minnesota that sells, rents, maintains or repairs goods and can reasonably implement social distancing and pickup or delivery. In addition to traditional retail, it includes household goods rentals, maintenance services, repair services and pet grooming. It allows salons and barbershops to open up the retail portions of their businesses.

The state will not be asking businesses to submit their plans for review, but they reserve the right to ask for them. Businesses are asked to do health screenings for employees. Customers are not to be allowed inside the stores. Grove said they "strongly suggest" contactless payment, as well.

More details are available for businesses on the DEED website.

Walz said that there will be no changes at this time for campgrounds or other outdoor facilities that have been closed.

The governor said Thursday that the state has moved to opening about 82% of businesses in some capacity, but said "that is little comfort to the 18% that aren't."

The Stay at Home order was originally put in place on March 27, to slow the spread of COVID-19 and give the state time to ramp up their hospital capacity. On April 8, Walz extended the order until May 4.

At that time, he built in a “mechanism” that allowed businesses to be gradually allowed back to work as they submit plans to show that they can implement public health recommendations like proper hygiene and social distancing. This past Monday, the state estimated 100,000 people went back to work in nonessential manufacturing, industrial and office jobs.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm has said that whatever happens with the Stay at Home order, Minnesotans can expect measures like social distancing and wearing masks in public to stay in place.

Wearing masks and not congregating together “will probably continue for some time,” Walz said. He acknowledged Thursday that while the "dial" turns up slowly to allow businesses to get back to work, people will still be asked to social distance and stay home, and distance learning will continue for students. People will be asked to telework if possible "for some time."

Walz said he hopes to revise the ban on elective surgeries in the coming days, and that his office is looking for public input. "The hospitals will be the ones that sign off on this," he said.

Beyond that, the next steps would be opening more customer-facing businesses, and then allowing small family gatherings, Walz said. After that, opening places of worship. Opening high-contact businesses like barber shops and salons would come after that.

“Continue what you’re doing in the social distancing,” Walz urged his audience. “Even if there were not a Stay at Home order … that is the surest way to get beyond this and get things back to the way we want them to be.”

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Walz said that the data shows Minnesotans have saved lives and bought critical time by staying home. He said he believes that the COVID-19 peak has been pushed out to the end of May or beginning of June.

"I think today there’s a lot of positives to talk about in Minnesota,” he said, while acknowledging that it is against the backdrop of the highest one-day death toll yet.

The state has built up hospital capacity and finalized a lease on an alternate care site to make sure everyone who needs care can receive it. There are other potential sites identified, as well.

“Should a surge come and the capacity be needed to overflow, we could stand those up in 72 hours," he said. "We proved we could do it, it’s there, and that just adds to our capacity.”

The state is still working to acquire more personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

Walz also pointed out the testing strategy his office is working on with the Minnesota Department of Health, Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. The goal is to get to 20,000 diagnostic tests per day and 15,000 antibody tests per day in the coming weeks.

Walz said the state’s objectives moving forward include:

  • Minnesotans living healthy, safe and happy lives
  • Slow spread and slowly build immunity, realizing elimination is impossible
  • Strategically get more Minnesotans back to work
  • Safely and slowly resume in-person contact and other activities

The governor said he's not saying that we'll be "out of it" by May 18. He emphasized that the virus is dictating when restrictions end or loosen.

"We have set parameters, we have set goals, we have turned the dial," he said. "You crank that dial wrong, and it is catastrophic what it can do."

Walz implored Minnesotans Thursday to not just focus on the extended date of May 18.

"Things have changed here, and they've changed for the positive," he said. "Let's grind it out the last few miles of this marathon and get to the other side."

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.