Over the last year, Gov. Tim Walz has issued sweeping executive orders to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state, from business and school closures to a statewide mask mandate required in public indoor spaces and businesses in Minnesota.
Those restrictions have been continually tweaked as the toll of the virus ebbed and flowed. Walz has announced a phase out of all restrictions by May 28 and the mask mandate by July 1, or as soon as 70% of all Minnesotans 16 and older are vaccinated. (This FAQ was updated May 6).
What's the latest on social gatherings?
Starting at noon on May 7, indoor gatherings are allowed with up to 50 people, but organizers are encouraged to wait until people are considered fully vaccinated by CDC guidelines. The governor removed capacity limits on outdoor events and mask mandate outdoors except for events over 500 people. By May 28, any remaining capacity restrictions on indoor events will be lifted, except masks are still required at any event with more than 500 people in attendance.
What about restrictions for bars and restaurants?
Restaurants can operate at 75% capacity, with a maximum of 250 people. Staring May 7, seating will be limited to 10 people per table indoors, but there will no longer be a mandatory closing time for bars and restaurants and their outdoor capacity limits and mask requirements are removed. After May 28, indoor bar and restaurant restrictions come to an end.
What about the hair salon and the gym?
Businesses such as hair salons and barber shops can be open at full capacity starting March 15, but employees and customers must wear masks and other protective equipment.
The state is also bumping up allowable capacity at gyms, pools and fitness centers to 50% on that date. Remaining indoor capacity restrictions will end on May 28.
When can I go back to concerts and sporting events?
Starting May 7, indoor seated capacity is increasing to 25% of capacity over 500 people, with social distancing requirements in place. All capacity limits will end on May 28, but face coverings will still be required until July 1 for events that exceed 500 people, or until the state hits 70% of Minnesotans 16 and older vaccinated.
What about outdoor sports and recreation?
Organized Youth Sports organizations resumed practices and games in January and starting March 15 youth sports pods can increase to 50 for outdoor activities. Spectator games must follow social distancing and venue limitations.
What about wedding receptions and funerals?
Wedding receptions and other private events have resumed, but they must follow the capacity guidelines and social distancing rules laid out by their specific venue.
Will there be in-classroom instruction for children?
Every elementary school in the state is allowed to operate an in-person learning model as long as they provide and require staff to wear a face shield and mask and offer regular testing. The decision is left up to each school district in consultation with health and education officials. Most schools are now offering some form of in-person learning, but because the youngest Minnesotans are not yet eligible for the vaccine, schools will continue under the state's plan until the end of the school year.
Are churches open to the public yet?
Churches and other houses of worship resumed services with no occupancy limits on March 15.
Are workplaces still required to work from home if they're able?
Workplaces are allowed to return to an office setting, but the state requires employers to maintain plans to keep their employees and customers safe.
When will the mask mandate be lifted?
Starting May 7, there's no longer a mask requirement in outdoor settings where there are fewer than 500 people. The remaining mask requirements will be lifted as soon as 70% of Minnesotans age 16 years and older (3,087,404 Minnesotans) get at least one dose of the vaccine, but no later than July 1.
Until then, where are face coverings required?
They must be worn in indoor environments that are open to the public as well as businesses. That includes indoor restaurants, bars, retail settings, public transportation, places of worship and polling places. Masks can temporarily be removed when necessary, such as eating or when you have to show your face for identification purposes.
Does that mean a mask is required everywhere?
No. The order does not mean you have to wear a mask at home, in your vehicle, at private social gatherings or outdoors. However, workers must wear a mask if they are doing their job outdoors and cannot social distance.
What qualifies as a face covering?
They can be a disposable mask, a cloth mask, a neck gaiter, a scarf, a bandanna or a religious face covering. They must cover the nose and mouth. But they should not be made of mesh or have openings, holes or visible gaps. Also, masks with vents or valves do not qualify as they can allow your unfiltered breath to escape.
Are some people exempt from wearing face coverings?
Yes, exceptions apply to those who have medical or health conditions, disabilities or mental health, developmental or behavioral needs that make it difficult to tolerate wearing a face covering. The state does not have a defined list of conditions that qualify for the exceptions.
What about children?
Children who are 2 to 5 years old are not required to wear a face covering, but they are encouraged to do so in public. Masks should not be used for kids who are younger than 2.
What are the requirements for businesses?
Businesses must enforce the mask requirement for their workers, customers and visitors. However, masks are not needed if they are unsafe on the job. Masks are not needed for workers who are alone or are in a cubicle with walls that are face height as long as social distancing is maintained.
So what happens if I don't wear a face covering when it is required?
State officials say they hope that individuals and businesses will voluntarily comply with the order and that violators will most likely be asked, rather than forced, to comply. But the order does specify legal consequences. Individual violators can be cited with a petty misdemeanor and fined $100. Business owners can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $1,000 or even jailed up to 90 days. Civil penalties can also be levied against businesses which can come with a fine of up to $25,000. Also, businesses that are regulated, such as bars and restaurants, may be subject to licensure actions.