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Walz gives retailers more space while extending stay-at-home

Associated Press

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday extended Minnesota’s stay-at-home order for another two weeks, to May 18, while loosening some restrictions on retail businesses to allow them to reopen for curbside pickup and deliveries starting Monday.

The change should allow up to 30,000 Minnesotans at around 10,000 businesses return to work safely, Walz said at a news conference. Those businesses must develop and post their plans to reopen safely, outfit workers with masks and protective equipment, use online payments as much as possible and maintain social distancing.

But bars, restaurants and other public accommodations must remain closed except for takeout and delivery. Hair salons can now sell products at curbside but still may not style hair. The governor acknowledged he’s not ready to say when those businesses might return to normal, and that many restrictions will remain in place beyond May 18.

However, Walz said he hopes to ease his order banning elective surgeries and other medical procedures in early May. He said the details still need to be worked out with the medical community. That change may also apply to dental procedures., Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said.

The governor said Minnesotans have saved lives by staying home and practicing social distancing, but they need to keep it up.

“We are getting this as right as anybody else in the country, but we could get it as wrong as anybody else in the country, he said.

Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said the governor’s new order is “not a full solution” to the pain retailers are feeling, but it’s “a really important step” that balances public health and economic health.

“Minnesotans have our commitment to do it in a safe and secure manner that not only protects our customers but our employees as well,” Nustad said at the briefing.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb in Minnesota, but the state is making progress toward more testing, according to new data Thursday from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The department reported 24 new deaths, for 343 total. A new one-day high of 492 confirmed cases pushed the state’s total to 5,136. And a daily high of 3,532 new tests brought the total to 70,276.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm reiterated at the governor’s briefing that the case count will swell as testing accelerates. Walz is counting on a partnership with the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic to expand the state’s testing capacity to 20,000 daily within a few weeks.

The health department released the growing numbers on the same day that a suburban Minneapolis nursing home said 47 residents had died from complications of COVID-19, the most at any long-term care facility in Minnesota. St. Therese of New Hope also said Wednesday that 130 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 65 staff have shown symptoms or been exposed. Most of Minnesota’s deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities.

Republican leaders pressed Walz to reopen more quickly, noting far lower case counts in most of rural Minnesota than its big cities. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, of Crown, said Walz should do more to help “Main Street” businesses.

“For thousands of other businesses, being closed until May 18 could be a devastating setback that they may not recover from. I hope the governor will move as quickly, and with as much advance notice as possible to help other businesses reopen their doors,” Daudt said.

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