Meanwhile, MDH Reports 76% Of Seniors Have Received At Least 1 Vaccine DoseBy WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic have been extended as the state takes a big step forward towards reopening Monday.

Starting at noon, bars and restaurants will be able to increase operations at 75% capacity; gyms will be able to operate at 50% capacity; and there will no longer be any limits for salons and religious services. Social distancing and masks are still required and the 11 p.m. curfew at restaurants remains in place.

Other changes taking effect on Monday:

– Social gatherings: allowed with up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people indoors.
– Youth sports: Pod size increasing to 50 for outdoor activities.
– Entertainment venues: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%, both indoors and outdoors, with a limit of 250.
– Seating at the bar increases to parties of four.

“Minnesotans should continue to take simple steps to protect the progress we’ve made, but the data shows that we are beating COVID-19,” Walz said. “Our vaccine rollout is leading the nation, the most vulnerable Minnesotans are getting the shot, and it is becoming increasingly more safe to return to our daily lives. The sun is shining brighter.”

As owners of larger businesses adapt, the changes come with challenges for some smaller establishments. With limited space available, it can be tough to bring more people in and follow social distancing rules, too.

In a few weeks, Minnesota’s professional sports teams will also start welcoming fans back to games.

Governor Emergency Powers

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Executive Council has moved to extend Walz’s pandemic emergency powers for another month. Walz says the move will help with the vaccine distribution effort, including the quick formation of new vaccination sites, following President Joe Biden’s call for every American adult to be eligible for a shot by May 1.

“We are closer than ever to ending this pandemic and returning to our daily lives — and we must keep up the momentum,” Walz said. “The peacetime emergency enables us to safeguard the progress we’ve made, protect Minnesotans’ health and well-being, and efficiently deliver the vaccine.”

The peacetime emergency also maintains elements such as protections from wage garnishments, price gouging, evictions and unsafe work environments during the pandemic; and requirements for masks to be worn in most public settings.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 38-29 Monday in favor of requiring Walz to get Minnesota Legislative approval before extending a peacetime emergency beyond 30 days.

Minnesota Health Department’s Latest COVID Data

The loosening of restrictions comes as over 75% of the state’s seniors have received at least one vaccine dose. Over 22% of the overall population, about 1.26 million people, has received at least one vaccine dose.

Meanwhile, state health officials on Monday reported 829 more virus cases and one additional death. The state’s tally of cases is now at 498,218 since the pandemic began, and 6,747 overall deaths. About 63% of the deaths involved a patient in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

For hospitalizations, over 26,000 people have required treatment for the virus so far, with more than 5,400 of those patients needing intensive care unit treatment.

Over 3.5 million people have been tested for the virus in the state. The state’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate is now at 3.6% as of March 4, due to data lag. That’s up slightly from 3.5% recorded on March 3.