Minnesota Eases Some Restrictions and Provides Indication of the Path to Reopening the Economy During COVID-19 Crisis

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This past week provided some easing of stay at home restrictions when on April 17, 2020 Governor Walz issued an order permitting individuals to engage in outdoor recreational activities that could be conducted while maintaining social distancing protocols, including golfing, fishing, and boating. See Executive Order 20-38. The order also reopens bait shops, outdoor shooting ranges, and marina services. The order does not come without limitations, however. Those participating in these outdoor activities are strongly discouraged from traveling to do so and are to limit themselves to those activities near their home. The order also does not permit tournaments, team events or events that might attract a crowd. The DNR has also set guidelines for golf course managers and golfers including staggering tee times, limiting shared riding of golf carts to household members, and a requirement to stay 6 feet away from other groups at all times. See DNR Guidelines. In making this announcement, Governor Walz recognized the importance for Minnesotans to stay active and enjoy the outdoors while continuing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This order comes a day after Wisconsin announced it would be reopening its golf courses as well.

Governor Walz also announced on April 17, 2020 that he has signed legislation allowing restaurants to temporarily sell a six-pack of beer, cider or hard seltzer or a bottle of wine beginning on April 18, 2020. See Beverage Takeout Sales Announcement. These beverages must be sold unopened in their original packaging with a food order and are limited to a maximum of 72 ounces of beer, hard seltzer and cider; and 750 milliliters of wine, per food order. See Text of Signed Bill. Cocktails and spirits are not included in this new rule. The change only applies during the state’s coronavirus emergency (expiring when Executive Order 20-04 expires, is terminated, or rescinded) and cities can still prohibit this rule change by resolution.

Further, there was some indication of the path Minnesota expects to take on reopening the economy. On April 16, 2020, Governor Walz, along with governors from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky announced that they will work together to reopen the economy in the Midwest region. See Midwest Partnership Announcement. In doing so, the governors recognized that each state’s economy is reliant on each other and therefore they must work together to safely reopen businesses and resume activities.

The factors the governor’s coalition will use to evaluate how and when to reopen the Midwest region economy are as follows:

  • Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations.
  • Enhanced ability to test and trace.
  • Sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence.
  • And best practices for social distancing in the workplace.

This announcement clarified that the economy will not reopen all at once, nor will every state open at the same time, but rather each state will coordinate to open at different speeds and in separate phases. At a news conference on April 17, 2020, Governor Walz indicated this approach is largely consistent with the White House Guidance for the phased opening of the economy.

Background

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the economic shutdown officially began in Minnesota on March 13, 2020 when Governor Walz issued an order declaring a peacetime emergency in Minnesota to prepare the state for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See Executive Order 20-01. The peacetime order was extended by order on April 13, 2020 for another 30 days, lasting until May 13, 2020. See Executive Order 20-35.

Since this time, the Governor has ordered the closure of all Minnesota K-12 public schools. See Executive Order 20-02; Executive Order 20-19 (extending the closure of all K-12 public schools until May 4). All places of public accommodation were also closed, including restaurants, coffeehouses, and bars (for in-house dining), and breweries, theaters, museums, fitness and recreation centers, salons, barber shops, tattoo and piercing parlors, amusement parks, bowling alleys, country clubs, golf clubs, athletic clubs and dining clubs. See Executive Order 20-04; Executive Order 20-08 (clarifying Executive Order 20-04 to include salons, barbershops and similar establishments); Executive Order 20-18 (extending the closure of places of public accommodation as defined in Executive Order 20-04 and Executive Order 20-08 until May 1, 2020).

On March 28, 2020, Governor Walz issued an order directing Minnesotans to stay-at-home except for activity necessary to relocate to ensure safety, seek health and safety services or supplies, engage in outdoor activities, obtain groceries or other food, gasoline, and supplies necessary to work from home, engage in essential intrastate and interstate travel, and to take care of or transfer others. See Executive Order 20-20.

All individuals working in critical sectors were exempted from this order for purposes of commuting to work and child-care or performing work duties. Critical sectors and workers included healthcare and public health, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, public works, communications and information technology, community-based operations, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical, defense industrial base, tribal governments, the judicial, executive and legislative branches, federal employees, national guard, faith leaders and workers, education, construction and critical trades, child care providers, hotels, residential facilities and shelters, shelters for displaced individuals, charitable and social services organizations, legal services, notaries, critical labor union functions, laundry services, animal shelters and veterinarians, real estate transactions, and essential supply stores for these sectors and workers. On April 8, 2020, this stay-at-home order was extended until May 3, 2020 when Governor Walz signed Executive Order 20-33, which also provided further clarification of exemptions for workers in critical sectors.

Key Contributors

Emily C. Atmore
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