Gov. Tim Walz will announce an easing of restrictions at restaurants and other venues on Wednesday, which have been closed for in-person services since late November to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new order comes as the state is seeing a substantial decline in the state's COVID-19 positivity rate and the number of patients hospitalized with the virus. Walz will deliver the news in a 2 p.m. live address.

Walz's current order keeps indoor service at bars and restaurants closed through Jan. 11. It also applies to movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums.

Fitness classes, swimming pools and amateur sports practices resumed on Monday, with capacity and social distancing restrictions in place.

The governor's office hasn't said whether venues will be allowed to reopen at partial or full capacity.

Before his Nov. 19 order closing bars and restaurants, Walz attempted a targeted response by ordering them to close everything but takeout service by 10 p.m. He cut off most counter service and bar games like pool or darts, which require patrons to leave their tables.

Those restrictions were meant to target venues where COVID-19 outbreaks were most likely to occur.

Republicans in the Legislature put pressure on Walz earlier this week to release his next steps as soon as possible so bars and restaurants can prepare for customers.

"He either doesn't know or doesn't care about what it takes to operate a restaurant in Minnesota," said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, adding that they needed time to order food and prepare to safely welcome customers back.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744