Gov. Tim Walz announced a “three-step timeline” for lifting “nearly all” of his COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate, which will remain in place until July 1 or when 70% of Minnesotans are vaccinated.
The rollback comes just over a week after the Walz administration was exposed for admitting to a lack of evidence to support its ban on youth sports. Republicans also threatened to hold up budget negotiations earlier this week unless Walz agreed to drop some of his restrictions.
Under Walz’s “three-step process,” all capacity limits for outdoor events will be lifted Friday at noon. Masking will be required for outdoor events with over 500 people. The state-mandated closing time for bars and restaurants will also be eliminated.
The gathering limit for indoor events will increase to 50 people and restaurants can host parties of up to 10 per table indoors.
All remaining capacity and distancing limits will be lifted May 28, including for indoor events and gatherings. Masks will still be required both indoors and for outdoor events in excess of 500 people.
Businesses will be required to have “limited plans in place to keep their employees and customers safe.”
The mask mandate will be removed once 70% of Minnesotans (or 3,087,404) above the age of 16 receive at least one dose of the vaccine, but no later than July 1. The requirement for business preparedness plans will also end on this date.
Local jurisdictions and businesses, however, will still be allowed to require masks.
As of May 4, 59% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, which translates to 2,614,319 Minnesotans.
Minnesota’s case positivity rate sits at 5.9% after experiencing two consecutive months below 5%. The positivity rate jumped to 7.9% in early April but has been steadily declining ever since.
Walz said early on in the pandemic that his mandates would remain in place “until we get a vaccine.”