Gov. Walz Releases Plan to Roll Back COVID-19 Restrictions, Mask Mandate to End by July 1
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday a three-step timeline to end nearly all state COVID-19 restrictions by May 28. The rollback plan would also end the statewide masking mandate by July 1 or once 70% of Minnesotans age 16 years and older get the vaccine, whichever comes earlier.
The announcement comes as more than 2.6 million Minnesotans, or 59% of people ages 16-plus, have received at lease one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. That percentage drops to 47% for the state’s total population. According to the governor’s office, the state is on track to vaccinate 70 percent of Minnesotans ages 16-plus by the end of June.
“The pandemic is not over and we have work to do. But from the State Fairgrounds, to doctor’s offices, to retrofitted Metro Transit buses that deliver vaccines where they’re most needed, Minnesotans now have more opportunities than ever to get the vaccine when and where they want to,” said Walz in a statement released to CCX News.
Three-Step Plan to Roll Back COVID-19 Restrictions
The governor’s three-step process will end nearly all state COVID-19 restrictions by May 28. Step one takes effect tomorrow, May 7, at noon. It includes initial steps to relax some restrictions, primarily in outdoor settings. The first step includes:
- Removing limits for outdoor dining, events and other get-togethers
- Ending mask requirement outdoors except at large venues with more than 500 people
- Eliminating state-mandated earlier closing time for bars and restaurants. Those establishments must currently close for on-site dining and service at 11 p.m. due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The second step begins May 28. Remaining capacity and distancing limits will come to an end, including for indoor events and gatherings. The requirements that will remain include:
- Face coverings indoors and for outdoor events that exceed 500 people.
- There will be no new safety requirements for businesses, though they must maintain plans to keep employees and customers safe guided only by a minimal universal state guidance document.
The third step removes the face covering requirement once 70 percent of Minnesotans age 16 years and older get at least one dose of the vaccine, but no later than July 1. Local jurisdictions and entities may set their own mask policies.
Because Minnesotans younger than 16 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, the Safe Learning Plan for schools will continue until the end of the school year. That includes masking and social distancing requirements for students and staff. However, the FDA could soon approve allowing the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15.
Health officials continue to track variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The variants are attributed to recent case increases in schools, especially at the middle school level. However, COVID-19 cases overall have declined since mid-April. The state’s 7-day rolling average case rate is currently at 5.9 percent, above the state’s 5 percent caution threshold, but the lowest since March 26.
“We know that barriers still exist for many Minnesotans who want to receive the vaccine, especially those in underserved communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “Our path forward now relies on Minnesotans getting the vaccine.”