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COVID In MN: Gov. Walz To Announce On Thursday His Timeline To End All Restrictions

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday will be announcing a timeline to end all COVID-19 restrictions -- and further ramping up of vaccination efforts.

Walz's office released a statement saying the governor is "making plans to wind down COVID-19 restrictions and get Minnesota back to business as usual."

Limits on seating at outdoor stadiums and other entertainment venues could be lifted by Memorial Day weekend.

It's expected that an early end to all restrictions -- including the indoor mask mandate -- will be tied to when the Minnesota vaccination rate hits 70%. Currently, 59% of eligible Minnesotans have received at least their first dose.

"Minnesota has done what we asked. We out-vaccinated that surge where hospitals were getting overwhelmed in a state like Michigan, and now Oregon," Walz said earlier this week.

For Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of Nisswa, the announcement is welcome but overdue news.

"For the area that I represent, the resorts, they want to make sure everything is opened and people can come up and they feel safe. And is it safe, and that's the point -- the vaccine has worked," he said.

First Avenue Stars
(credit: CBS)

A little rain never stopped music fans from lining up along the stars outside First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. It is a sight not seen in over a year, with the iconic venue barely hosting in-person concerts through the pandemic.

Shows over the next few months still carry the "cancelled" stamp on its website, but change could come Thursday, says First Avenue marketing director Ashley Ryan.

"That's why it's so exciting to hear that there's going to be an update because that will give us a much clearer understanding if June or July or August indoors is feasible in a way that we didn't think it was," Ashley Ryan said.

Whatever Gov. Walz lays out, staff at Elsie's in northeast Minneapolis are ready to roll, says general manager Dawn Swart.

"People, they're excited to get out and just enjoy life, and we're excited to have them," Swart said.

She looks forward to packing the bowling alley's lanes, restaurant and banquet hall once again. But how that looks remains to be seen.

"We only have so much square footage. So if we were to reopen at 100% capacity but still have that six-foot rule, it wouldn't really change things for us," Swart said.

She will withhold excitement for now, while still being grateful that a potential end is in sight.

"I think any progress is hopeful," she said.

Another aspect of how these industries will react to Thursday's announcement is job openings. Music venues, the hospitality industry and restaurants had to let workers go over the past year. Operating at full capacity means hiring could ramp up.

The governor's announcement is also expected to contain recommendations to continue social distancing and mask wearing as a precaution.

The press conference is scheduled for noon Thursday. WCCO will be streaming the announcement on CBSN Minnesota.

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