Minnesotans should continue to wear masks outdoors and keep their distance from others even as businesses reopen and the state loosens restrictions on daily life driven by COVID-19, the state’s top health official says.
“Lower risk does not equal no risk,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters hours after Minnesota’s stay-at-home order, in place since late March, expired. “We’re really going to have to keep up these behaviors for a long time to come.“
Monday marked the first day retailers could reopen with limited capacity and group gatherings of 10 or fewer people, including at places of worship, were permitted once again.
The most high-profile clash came when a central Minnesota bar owner vowed to defy the order and reopen, but backed down on Monday when a judge approved Attorney General Keith Ellison’s restraining order.
Also Monday, the latest coronavirus statistics showed some encouraging trends, including that cases are doubling about every 12 days now, a longer time period than the state’s seen in recent weeks. Malcolm called it a “positive sign” of the disease’s relatively stable growth.
Health officials say they’re watching several key metrics to gauge if the disease is accelerating as restrictions are lowered. Among them: the number of days it takes for cases to double, the amount of daily testing, the proportion of positive tests and the level of community spread that can’t be traced to specific contacts — an indication the disease might be more widespread.
Officials also said they were continuing to add investigators to contact those infected and work to reach others who might have had contact with them and might also be potentially infected.
Here are the latest coronavirus statistics:
16,372 confirmed cases via 156,606 tests
2,128 cases requiring hospitalization
488 people remain hospitalized; 229 in intensive care
10,764 patients no longer needing isolation
Curbs continue on large group venues
Restrictions on restaurants, bars, theaters, bowling alleys and venues that attract large crowds will remain even as restrictions ease.
The DFL governor won’t permit restaurants to legally resume dine-in service for now, keeping them takeout-only. He said he’s instructed his agencies to assemble a plan over the next week for a "limited and safe" reopening of bars, restaurants and other places of public accommodation June 1.
When they do come back, restaurants, bars and theaters are likely to face capacity limits. Walz also said he signed an executive order ensuring that people can raise safety concerns about their workplaces without discrimination or retaliation.
It’s a similar situation for hair salons and barber shops, gyms and other currently restricted activities that haven’t been able to serve customers since March. Salons and barbershops are allowed to sell products for curbside pickup but aren’t allowed to provide services in-shop.
Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, reiterated Monday that the restrictions on visitors to long-term care facilities would also continue after Monday.