Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced additional easing of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing Minnesotans to return to the gym, salons and indoor restaurant dining, albeit at diminished capacity.
Walz’s administration has been juggling two major crises, the civil unrest and mass demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s death on May 25 and a pandemic that has claimed 1,148 lives in Minnesota.
“We believe we should be able to handle this,” Walz said, but “we can’t get complacent, and we can’t get lazy.” He added the state now has the testing capacity to track and trace the virus’ spread.
Walz said the state has surpassed more than 11,000 tests daily, giving him and health officials confidence the state can move toward reopening.
Starting Wednesday, indoor restaurant dining, salons and pools can reopen at 50% capacity; gyms and movie theaters can also open but are limited to 25% or a maximum of 250 people, according to Walz’s executive order issued Friday.
The announcement caps off one of the most volatile weeks in modern Minnesota history, which included mass demonstrations that state health officials have warned could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.
Walz has been under steady pressure by Republicans to more quickly reopen Minnesota’s economy to counter the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, which includes record unemployment and the shuttering of businesses affected by the stay-at-home orders.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Friday again called on the governor to lift all restrictions, including on weddings, funerals and schools, saying the mass demonstrations, which started May 26, have proven the state has moved past the worst part of the pandemic. Minnesota health officials say it can take up to two weeks for COVID-19 symptoms to appear and this week asked people who attended protests to be tested. Testing has been expanded to include people who are not showing symptoms.
Other Minnesota institutions have begun moving ahead with their plans to reopen, including the University of Minnesota, which will resume in-person classes this fall, according to its president, Joan Gabel.