Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Wednesday that he's relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for Minnesota bars and restaurants, which have been closed to indoor dining for the last six weeks, CBS Minnesota reports. Loosened restrictions were also announced for movie theaters, gyms, places of worship and small gatherings.
Walz also mentioned during his press conference that the amount of new COVID-19 cases are approaching the pre-surge level seen last year at the height of the pandemic.
The governor will now allow bars and restaurants to reopen indoor dining at 50% capacity, or up to 150 people. Restaurant tables will be able to seat up to six people, and bars will be able to seat groups of two. Under the new rules, reservations will be required, and establishments must close by 10 p.m. local time.
The new rules are slated to take effect Monday, when the governor's current executive order banning indoor dining is set to expire.
"The situation in Minnesota is undeniably better than it was last month," Walz said in a statement earlier Wednesday. "We have reasons to be optimistic, and Minnesotans' sacrifice and commitment to their communities helped change the pandemic's trajectory and saved lives. But we need to protect the progress we've made."
Walz also announced relaxed restrictions for gyms, churches, and indoor entertainment facilities such as theaters, museums and bowling alleys. Starting Monday, gyms will be able to hold up to 150 people, although capacity will remain capped at 25%. Up to 25 people will be allowed in gym classes, as long as there can be 9 feet of separation. Masks will be required.
Movie theaters, museums and bowling alleys will be able to reopen at 25% capacity, with no more than 150 people in the venue area. Masks will be required, and there'll be no food service after 10 p.m.
Small gatherings such as wedding receptions and private parties will be allowed to resume with limits. If food and drinks are served, the gatherings will be limited to 10 people from two households indoors or 15 people from three households outdoors. If no food or drinks are served, the gatherings will be restricted by venue guidelines. Any ceremonies — such as weddings or funerals — will fall under guidelines for places of worship, which will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity but with no maximum number limit.
The relaxed restrictions come as Minnesota has seen weeks of declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Additionally, frontline health care workers and those in long-term care facilities have begun to be inoculated against the virus. Although the vaccine rollout has been slower than expected, some health care workers this week began receiving their second and final doses.