Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Wednesday evening that he will be replacing the current stay-at-home order, that is set to expire Sunday, May 17, with an alternative option that allows some retail stores, malls and other small businesses to reopen with a safety plan. Businesses that reopen are to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan that incorporates social distancing protocols for both employees and customers, and limits on occupancy of no more than 50 percent of the business’ capacity.

    Restaurants, bars, salons and gyms will remain closed until June 1, 2020, but Walz said he has directed members of his cabinet to have extensive discussions with businesses and health experts to assure a plan is in place for their reopening.

    Walz is also “turning the dial” to allow friends and family in groups of 10 or less to gather, but is prohibiting larger group gatherings whether for social, leisure, religious, civic, community, or faith-based.

    The state’s peacetime emergency declaration has also been extended to June 12.

    “We are not flipping a switch and all going back to normal at once. We are slowly moving a dial,” Walz said on social media. “We are trusting people to stay safe by making smart choices. Wear a mask, stay home if you are sick, wash your hands, and get tested if you are not feeling well.”

    “We are counting on Minnesotans to take personal responsibility for their own health and the health of their community,” he added.

    As of May 13, the Minnesota Department of Health has reported 638 deaths due to COVID-19 and 12,917 positive cases in the state with 1,851 people who have been hospitalized.