Some arts and crafts stores such as Michaels and Jo-Ann fabrics are still open in Minnesota even though the state has clarified that they are not exempt from the stay-at-home order.
Some people, including workers, are not happy about them staying open, pointing to the importance of the order to stop the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.
Michaels, when asked, did not clarify its position on the state’s guidance for arts and craft stores but did issue a statement.
“With health care workers experiencing shortages of the personal protective equipment necessary for their role in the fight against COVID-19, Michaels is providing makers nationwide with access to supplies and instructions so they can help create face masks and face shields,” the company said.
In the past week, businesses in several categories — including some arts and crafts stores — have sought clarification from the state to see if they are considered part of a “critical” industry that would exempt them from the order, according to Gov. Tim Walz’s office.
Some arts and crafts stores make Michaels’ argument — that they are essential because people can buy materials to make homemade masks. Another argument is that they provide materials for children while schools are closed.
On Monday, the state published a clarification online to its list of critical industries, noting that workers at arts and craft stores are not exempt and must abide by the stay-at-home order. On Tuesday, it added another clarification saying that retail stores whose workers are not exempt should not be open.
“To save lives, we need as many Minnesotans to stay home as possible,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “The exemptions are meant to be narrow and allow for the continuation of critical health and safety functions.”
Jo-Ann Stores did not respond to a request for comment but last week said it would stay open in Minnesota to provide materials for masks and for families.
Several local and chain stores, including Hobby Lobby, have temporarily closed in the Twin Cities. Hobby Lobby along with other arts and crafts stores have resisted closing stores around the country during the pandemic.
Carlotta Renner, who was an assistant manager at the Hobby Lobby in Blaine, decided to quit her job on Friday when it seemed the craft store was going to defy the stay-at-home order and remain open.
The chain ended up staying closed on Saturday, but then reopened on Monday, only to close again on Tuesday, she said.
She said she didn’t feel safe continuing to work as the company kept on changing its mind and giving different reasons as to why it should stay open.
“I can’t put my health at risk,” she said, noting that she has diabetes and sometimes has respiratory issues. “I didn’t want to work for a company that did this.”
In some other states such as Michigan and Ohio, attorneys general have ordered some of these arts and craft stores to close during similar stay-at-home orders.
In Minnesota, state officials have not yet taken any punitive actions.
“We are asking for voluntary compliance and focusing on education, rather than penalties, but those penalties do exist if needed,” the governor’s office said.
Noncritical businesses that continue to operate in violation of the order can face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.
In addition to workers at arts and craft stores, the state has also clarified that workers for pet grooming businesses, tobacco and vaping shops and CBD oil shops are not exempted from the stay-at-home order.
However, the state has allowed workers delivering plants to continue working, while encouraging them to drop off products at the front door of nursing homes and hospitals to avoid contact with vulnerable populations.