Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that bars and restaurants can now host up to 50 people for outdoor dining, but churches are still required to limit both indoor and outdoor services to 10 people.
The governor was asked during his Wednesday press briefing why restaurants can host 40 more people than churches for outdoor gatherings.
Here was his response, transcribed word for word:
We struggle on some of these and there is not a perfect answer. Trying to figure it out and we have brought, just candidly – the way this was presented to me – I went out and asked to follow the science, use courses of action from one that would be considered keep that pot still, don’t do anything, to be as aggressive as possible. And this one waffs between both of them, between the two of them. I think and I’m hearing strongly on this of trying to figure out how we make that happen because I think the logic behind it and I think, Jan, again, it was the predictability of who’s there, but I think you could argue, ‘Boy, I see the same people every Sunday at my congregation and in fact the Smiths sat in the same pew every year for 30 years, so we know exactly where they’re at, we know exactly where they are.’
I just want to say that I think there is a very strong sense of urgency for us to figure this piece out around churches. And I say that about all the businesses, but I do think these pieces of people’s lives we need to try and get it around. So, Dave, I would just tell you I think it goes with the predictability piece of it. I will, again, say that I don’t think that it’s perfect and I think there’s some things that we have to still continue to figure out. It’s one of the reasons with the next phases that I don’t want to set a timeline on it, because I think if we get these things that many folks are prepared to move pretty rapidly to implement the things that are being asked of them to get there. And I think just to be on this one is we want to see what happens for a short period of time with the changes we made and want to get there. But I will acknowledge the logic of that argument is sound, the concerns are there, and this is one that – we probably had more conversations about this and graduation ceremonies than maybe anything else.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Friday that the governor and his administration “have not yet engaged in dialogue” on a proposal for reopening.
“A plan to resume public Masses in a limited manner on May 18 – but only in places where parishes were willing and ready to follow a prescribed set of sanitization protocols – was submitted May 8 to the governor for feedback. Four Lutheran denominations joined our letter to Gov. Walz. A number of other denominations and independent churches submitted plans May 8, as well,” Hebda said in his May 15 update.
The Catholic bishops of Minnesota then announced Wednesday that they would be allowing churches to resume public Masses on May 26, effectively defying the governor’s orders.
“We have attempted to engage in dialogue with the administration. We have twice sent the governor letters asking for a dialogue, most recently last Saturday. Though public health and public safety officials have listened to our concerns and have created opportunities for input and conversation, we have not received a concrete timeline and roadmap for resuming public worship that includes reasonable guidance on congregational size,” the bishops said.
Parishes will be required to follow the “strict protocols we have published for sanitation and social distancing and will have to limit attendance to one-third of the seating capacity of the church,” the bishops added.
New guidelines for bars and restaurants
Under the new guidelines announced Wednesday, bars and restaurants can resume outdoor dining only on June 1. No more than 50 people total are allowed in an outdoor setting and tables must be situated six-feet apart. Customers are asked to limit their parties to four total or six for families. Reservations are required and walk-ins aren’t allowed.
“We have clear evidence from the health experts that outdoor settings are a lot safer than indoor settings,” said Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove.
Salons, barbershops, and other personal care services can reopen June 1, but must limit capacity to 25 percent of the building’s maximum occupancy. Masks are required for both patrons and workers. Like bars and restaurants, appointments are required and no walk-ins are allowed.
Campgrounds and boat rentals are also allowed to reopen June 1.
“While it’s not perfect, it’s safe and it’s moving the dial,” said Gov. Walz. “I understand the frustrations, I understand the desire, but the science is too strong. We can’t pretend like this isn’t a big deal. We can’t pretend with 100,000 dead Americans that this is just going to go away.”
Wednesday’s press conference can be watched below:
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