Gov. Walz

Gov. Tim Walz

Minnesota’s stay-at-home order will expire at the end of the day Sunday and more businesses will be allowed to reopen, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.

Walz will replace it with an order continuing to encourage Minnesotans to stay close to home, but allowing for gatherings of friends and family of 10 people or fewer.

The governor said non-critical businesses, such as retail stores, malls and other businesses, will be able to reopen on Monday if they have a social distancing plan and operate at no more than 50 percent capacity, which is estimated to return up to 37,000 more people to work over the next several weeks.

Walz is directing his administration to assemble similar guidance on how to safely reopen bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons beginning on June 1. He said the timing will coincide with a significant increase in testing, tracing and isolating the virus in the state.

“Minnesotans, thank you for your continued sacrifices,” Walz said. “You have saved thousands of lives. You successfully pushed out the peak of this virus and bought our state time to get ready to treat those who fall ill. We know there’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we have made great progress to prepare for it.”

But Walz cautioned people not to be carefree and return to the way things were. There have been 12,917 Minnesotans who have tested positive for the coronavirus and 638 people who have died of COVID-19 since March.

Walz said he will sign a new order called “Stay Safe Minnesota,” which will allow gatherings that are limited to 10. People should still practice social distancing and wear masks to protect each other, he said.

On Wednesday, Walz signed two executive orders — one that encourages those with the greatest risk of serious illness to continue staying home and the other to ensure workers can raise concerns regarding the safety of their work environments without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

RESPONSE TO PLAN

The Minnesota Nurses Association has reservations about the timing of lifting the stay-at-home order because, said president Mary Turner, hospitals continue to ration personal protective equipment and there hasn’t been a dramatic expansion of capacity for COVID-19 testing.

“Failure to protect each other will result in a dramatic spike in positive cases, overload hospitals, and cause the very caregivers we need to succumb to the virus themselves,” Turner said.

Walz, a Democrat, has been facing criticism from Republican lawmakers, along with some smaller cities and business owners.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, responded on Wednesday to the plan to reopen businesses: “We’re moving in the right direction. This is really good news. I’m glad that he listened to us.”

Walz also extended his peacetime emergency authority on Wednesday until June 12.

Walz’s first stay-at-home order took effect March 27 at 11:59 p.m. and the governor extended it twice. The order will now be over on Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

The governor allowed office workers and manufacturers who don’t deal directly with customers to return to work on April 27. Retailers of nonessential items were allowed to open for curbside pickups and deliveries beginning May 4.

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