Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday laid out his timeline for ending COVID-19 restrictions — including the end of curbs in time for Memorial Day weekend — serving notice that the pandemic’s end is near.
“It’s been a long journey, but we did the things that needed to be done,” Walz said in noon remarks about the coming wind down of restrictions. “The job is not done until it’s done, but the plan to finish it is on us now.”
At the same time, he continued to plead with Minnesotans to get their COVID-19 shots. “You need to help Minnesota now,” he said to those adults still not vaccinated.
The governor’s office highlighted three key dates:
• May 7 (Friday). The state removes limits for outdoor dining and events. It ends the mask order outdoors except at venues with more than 500 people. Pandemic-related closing times for bars, restaurants and other gathering spaces are lifted.
• May 28. Any remaining outdoor limits and indoor activity restrictions will end.
• July 1. The state’s mask wearing requirement will end. It could end sooner if 70% of the state’s 16-and-older population have received at least one vaccine dose. Currently it’s about 60%.
At the slower vaccination pace the state’s seen over the past week, the 70% threshold would be about a month out.
Walz’s office said some protections set up in the pandemic will remain, including an eviction moratorium and a “price gouging” ban. Local governments and businesses will still be allowed to extend masking and other virus precautions beyond July 1.
Bars and restaurants — some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic — applauded the news Thursday.
“Local bars and restaurants have been desperate to fully open safely and quickly — and the end is in sight,” Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said in a statement.
“We’re thrilled to fully open for business with minimal restrictions,” he said. “Please visit your local bars and restaurants — we’ve missed you!”