Gov. Tim Walz said he'll announce Friday one of the most significant rollbacks of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings since pandemic-triggered lockdowns started nearly a year ago.

"They will be probably our biggest turn because we're at a point where we have not been since this thing started, and it will start to give guidance on larger gatherings starting as early as April," Walz said Thursday during a visit to a Plymouth high school.

The news comes as the state has hit major milestones in vaccinating essential workers and elderly residents. New numbers Thursday show 1,129,967 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine and 70% of the state's senior citizens have now been vaccinated.

But Walz signaled caution over new COVID-19 variants. State health officials said Thursday that Minnesota detected its first case of the B. 1.351 variant first discovered in South Africa. "I think the next three or four weeks will determine how this pandemic ends," he said.

Walz said students looking ahead at their proms and graduation ceremonies can expect more guidance on that Friday. The governor plans to deliver the news in a live address at 11 a.m.