MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday extended Minnesota’s stay-at-home order to early May to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The order directs Minnesotans to stay-at-home and limit movements to essential needs until May 4. It was originally set to expire on April 10. This means Minnesotans are allowed to leave their homes for crucial items such as groceries, prescriptions, gas, or to go to work if you’re deemed an essential worker.

Workers who are exempt from the order include but are not limited to:

  • Healthcare and public health
  • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
  • Child care
  • Emergency shelters
  • Homeless shelters
  • Food and agriculture
  • News media
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Public transportation drivers

The governor also announced an extension to the public accommodations order, effectively keeping bars, restaurants and other public accommodations closed until May 4. However, Walz is allowing some businesses to go back to work, including a number of outdoor-based cases such as gold course maintenance and landscaping.

Those found violating the order could be subject to a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Minnesota: The Dos & Don’ts Of Our Stay-At-Home Order

“What we are doing is working, Minnesota,” Walz said. “We are taking this seriously, and we are staying home. While Minnesota is showing lower rates of infections than our peers across the country, now is not the time to let up or allow that trajectory to change. Updated federal guidance and our own public health experts are showing that if we keep staying home, we will save lives – which is why I made the data-driven decision to extend the Stay Home Order until May 4.”

The governor’s order to stay home is forecasted to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19, pushing out the peak of the disease and allowing the state to continue key preparations for the pandemic. Walz noted that Minnesota’s growth rates on positive cases have been markedly slower than most other states in the country.

Walz and state officials have said they remain concerned about the shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment. In one case, a large order in China bound for Minnesota was confiscated by the Chinese Army. Walz and state officials said they are working on other supply lines.

State officials also sounded a warning to Minnesota’s rural communities, saying that in those areas the populations may be older, on average, and if they’re not properly exercising social distancing, they’re also more at risk.

“We’re facing an historic public health crisis, and Minnesotans are rising to the challenge,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “The social distancing and community mitigation efforts Governor Walz implemented have secured us much-needed time to prepare more fully for the predicted peak in cases, and today’s announcement gives us a better chance to save even more lives.”

MOREFollow Gov. Walz’s briefing on Pat Kessler’s Twitter page.

Walz said it’s still possible that classes could still come back to schools this spring, but it’s not looking likely.

In Minnesota, 39 people have died from COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the state’s count of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,154. About 30,000 people have been tested for the virus in Minnesota, although health officials warn that the actual number of people with the disease is likely much higher, as testing has not been widely available.

More than 600 people have recovered from COVID-19 and no longer require isolation, however Walz warned that relaxing restrictions too hastily could see all Minnesota’s progress fall apart. Walz said his recommendation to continue the stay-at-home order for another four weeks comes on the advice of health experts and professionals.

The announcement of this extension was greeted by positive statements from both sides of the political aisle.

“Minnesotans are doing outstanding work staying in place, flattening the curve, and giving our hospitals and health care facilities more time to prepare for the worst,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said. “It’s encouraging that Governor Walz has granted flexibility for several types of businesses, and that plans are being developed for more. We hope as this Stay at Home order continues, the governor will continue evaluating requests and allow businesses to reopen if they can do so safely. The sooner we can let more Minnesotans safely return to work, the sooner we can start stabilizing our economy.”

“Minnesotans have done a great job of social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we are not out of this crisis yet,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said. “Governor Walz and his team have done an excellent job following the data and making strong decisions to protect Minnesotans. Today’s extended Stay at Home order is no different. I strongly encourage Minnesotans to stay home as much as you can, maintain social distancing, and wear a mask when in public.”

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