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Minnesota governor loosening restrictions on restaurants, salons, gyms, pools on Wednesday

Jeremy Olson, Glenn Howatt and Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- Indoor restaurants, swimming pools, movie theaters, fitness clubs and other venues can resume limited business Wednesday as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz continues to dial back restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The governor's announcement Friday came amid indicators that the pandemic has at least temporarily "plateaued" in Minnesota, though state officials expect the corona­virus that causes COVID-19 to be a concern for months.

"COVID is still with us," Walz said, "but we gotta live with it."

No venues, indoor or outdoor, can host more than 250 people at once under the new guidance, but the level of reopening beyond that depends on the industry or activity. Churches, hair salons and indoor bars and restaurants can serve up to 50% of their capacities, while fitness centers, bowling alleys and movie theaters can serve 25% of their capacities as they reopen for the first time in more than two months.

With almost all businesses other than large concert and sporting venues allowed to resume, the more pressing statistic than building capacity is how many people they can serve while keeping unrelated groups 6 feet apart, said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus increases when people are face to face within 6 feet for 10 or more minutes, so businesses will need to maintain social distancing for workers and customers, Grove said.

 

"Social distancing ... is the bedrock principle of every single move that is made across this dial," Grove said.

Outdoor gatherings of 25 people and indoor gatherings of 10 people can now take place, as long as social distancing is observed, paving the way for small, belated graduation celebrations.

Some competitive youth and adult recreational sports can resume but only if that spacing can be maintained. Tennis matches might be OK, but basketball games would present problems.

"You'd be a pretty bad basketball player if you're 6 feet apart from the person you are trying to defend," said Grove, who deferred to the state's COVID-19 web page for guidance on major summer sports such as baseball and soccer.

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