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Minnesota's stay-at-home order to remain in place through May 18

Gov. Tim Walz announced the extension and some tweaks to the order Thursday in St. Paul.

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Gov. Tim Walz answers questions while holding his mask at a press conference inside the Department of Public Safety in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Walz unveiled a plan that extends the state's stay-at-home order and keeps bars and restaurants takeout-only until May 18, but also makes changes to allow some additional business operations. Evan Frost / MPR News, Pool
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ST. PAUL — Minnesotans will remain under orders to remain at home except to perform essential tasks for at least two more weeks.

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, April 30 announced that the state's stay at home order would be extended to May 18 but exceptions would be ordered allowing more retailers to open and offer delivery or curbside pickup options. The DFL governor also extended the closures of dine-in restaurants and bars until May 18.

The new orders came days before the stay-at-home order and another order shuttering bars and restaurants were scheduled to lift and as 492 new cases of COVID-19 and additional 24 deaths associated with the illness were reported in Minnesota. In total, 5,136 have tested positive for the illness and 343 have died from the disease and its complications.

Another 584,340 have filed for state unemployment insurance due to the pandemic and executive actions aimed to limit its spread.

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Walz's original order was set to run from March 27 to April 10 and was later extended to Monday, May 4. The governor said the order was needed to help the state build up intensive care unit capacity and personal protective equipment ahead of an expected peak in COVID-19 cases.

The capacity to provide intensive care to sick Minnesotans at the peak of a potential outbreak has been prepared, Walz said, and he plans to begin "turning the dial" in terms of reopening sectors of the economy rather than flipping on a switch.

"The real thing that we have to be focused on is not to be complacent, to be smart, to lean into things where we can but with the recognition that we are on a very fine line with this virus that can come very, very quickly," Walz told reporters, noting the rapid outbreak of meat processing plants around the state. "It won't be a slow burn. It will be an exponential growth."

Health officials and the governor during the span of the stay-at-home order to date have warned against too quickly moving back to normal and overwhelming the health care system or causing potential harm for businesses that reopen before workers or customers feel safe returning.

"If I believed I could crank that dial all the way to the right today, that's exactly what I'd like to do. But it is not ready," Walz said. "Having come from Worthington yesterday, you crank that dial wrong and it is catastrophic in what it can do."

Dry cleaners, others could open Monday

Minnesota, like other states that issued stay-at-home orders, has started rolling back the action to allow more exceptions. First, Walz opened up recreational activities and on Monday, another order allowed around 80,000 manufacturing, industrial and office employees in positions that don't directly deal with customers to return to their jobs .

And on Thursday, Walz announced restrictions under the stay-at-home order would be altered to allow tens of thousands of workers in retail positions to offer delivery and pick-up purchase options. So customer-facing stores, dry cleaners, pet groomers, those who rent or fix household goods and other non-critical retailers would have the option to reopen with new protocols if they could offer more delivery or to-go sale options beginning Monday, May 4.

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Salons or other vendors would be authorized to sell shampoos or products curbside but wouldn't be able to offer services for customers. Houses of worship, salons and spas likely would be allowed to open for services later in May, Walz said.

Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said it was a move that could help affect thousands of retailers that employ about 30,000 employees.

“This is not a whole solution, but this is a step and it is an important step,” he said.

The state maintained recommendations that Minnesotans wear masks or face coverings when in public and required that those able to work from home continue doing so. And Walz said restrictions could be rolled back before May 18 if health indicators suggested Minnesotans were continuing to practice social distancing and handwashing practices.

Still, Republican lawmakers, business leaders and others for weeks had called for tweaks to the governor's orders that would put small business owners on a more level playing field with big box stores and allow hospitals to pick up surgeries and procedures deemed noncritical.

"The governor is asking the right questions and looking at the right data, but I'm disappointed he's not turning the dial further today," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said. "I think he should move further, and faster, opening businesses up again in Minnesota."

And they pressed for the governor to move faster in reopening the state for business, travel and some congregating. A coalition of business owners on Wednesday sued the state over the executive orders keeping them closed, saying they violated their constitutional rights.

The governor said he was working to assess how much personal protective equipment would be needed to treat COVID-19 patients in a swell of cases and would consider expanding access to nonemergency surgeries and procedures once that is established.

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Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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