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Minnesota’s Governor Announces Timeline to End COVID-19 Restrictions

Bars and restaurants can stay open later and more on the coming changes

A darkened bar with wood top and back stocked with bottles. A blurred bartender walks past
Bars can stay open later and soon capacity limits are expected to lift
Joy Summers

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s Thursday announcement rolled out an optimistic timeline for the easing of COVID-19 restrictions thanks in part to Minnesota’s high rate of vaccinations.

Ahead of a live news conference, Walz’s office released a statement detailing the governor’s plans to move Minnesota closer to normalcy, and earlier this week Walz asked for continued patience and agility. “We are coming close to the end, but I asked Minnesotans, we got just a little ways to go here,” he said.

Upcoming modifications include lifting limits on most outdoor gatherings, including seating at restaurants and bars, as well as outdoor stadiums and other venues, starting tomorrow. Minnesotans no longer have to wear masks outdoors except for large gatherings of 500 people. Closing times will also return to normal for bars and restaurants on Friday May 7.

By Memorial Day weekend, further restrictions will be lifted including capacity and social distancing requirements, but face coverings will still be required for indoors events and for outdoor events that exceed 500 people.

A full end to the mask mandate could come by July 1 or earlier.

An end to all restrictions is still tied to the vaccination rate. Walz reiterated that rates must hit 70% before a complete lifting of regulations is possible. Currently, just under 60% of eligible Minnesotans have received at least one dose, and almost 50% are fully vaccinated.

“As cases recede, more people get vaccinated every day, and vaccines are readily available to all who want it, we can now confidently and safely set out our path back to normal,” Walz said.

While the lowering of restrictions is certainly a move in a positive direction, the hospitality industry has been struggling to hire staff as many have left the industry during the pandemic. Staffing will remain a challenge as winter weary Minnesotans begin flooding patios this spring. As Walz astutely reminded us, patience will remain a much needed virtue as we acclimate to the new normal.