Virus Restrictions to End Soon in Minnesota

Governor Tim Walz says he plans to end all of Minnesota’s coronavirus restrictions this summer.  On Thursday, Walz said he plans to end all capacity restrictions by May 28th and end the state’s mask mandate by July 1st.  Starting today, there’s no longer a capacity limit for outdoor events.  Masks are also no longer required outdoors except for in large crowds.

Walz’s three-stage plan will have most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions lifted by mid-summer. Part of that plan includes ending the statewide mask mandate when 70% of Minnesotans ages 16 and older are vaccinated, or by July 1. The state is currently on track to reach that mark by the end of next month.  Restrictions will start loosening beginning starting today with limits for outdoor dining, events and other get-togethers ending. The mask requirement will also end for outdoor settings under 500 people. Additionally, the mandatory closing time for businesses like bars and restaurants will end. Then, on May 28, the remaining capacity and distancing limits will end, including for indoor events. Face coverings will still be required for both indoor and outdoor events with more than 500 people.

Finally, the mask mandate and requirements for preparedness plans will end by July 1, or when 70% of Minnesotans 16 and older are vaccinated, whichever comes sooner.

But University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm says the state has a “long way to go” to get there. “Only about 47% of the state has even a single dose in their arm and closer to only 36% are fully vaccinated,” Osterholm said. “That leaves a lot of people out there that are surely able to get infected and still transmit the disease.” Osterholm said the state’s focus now has to be reaching that 70% vaccination threshold and beyond because there are mutations of the virus that are concerning with no guarantee that new variants won’t show up in the near future as well. “But the good news is the vaccinations have been successful against one of the more virulent strains of the virus known as the UK variant,” Osterholm said. “This is one of the variants that is not likely to reduce your immune protection from vaccines or natural infections, and that’s the good news in this.”

Osterholm said the announcement from the governor shows things are moving in the right direction, but getting more people vaccinated is the key to prevent the state from taking a step backward.