REGIONAL- Restaurants, hair salons, and other indoor and outdoor venues for recreation and entertainment will see a loosening of restrictions next week as Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced …
REGIONAL- Restaurants, hair salons, and other indoor and outdoor venues for recreation and entertainment will see a loosening of restrictions next week as Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced modifications to the statewide steps taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We’re not going back to normal,” Walz said. “We remain in a world where COVID is a factor in our lives. As we turn these dials we want to remain vigilant. We can’t get lazy, we can’t get complacent.”
The new guidelines, which go into effect Wednesday, June 10, include:
• Restaurants can open for inside dining at 50-percent capacity, with reservations required. Table service is limited to four persons per table, or six if part of one family unit.
• Fitness facilities can open at 25 percent capacity, provided they have a regular disinfection routine and provide six feet or more between stations/activities that encourage high exertion.
• Religious worship facilities can expand to 50-percent capacity up to a maximum of 250 people.
• Swimming pools can open at 50-percent capacity.
• Movie theaters, bowling alleys, museums, and other indoor entertainment facilities can open at 25-percent capacity.
• Outdoor entertainment venues can open for up to 250 people.
Personal care services such as hair salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors can increase capacity to 50 percent provided they provide appropriate social distancing and both workers and clients wear masks.
Area businesses have been scurrying the past few days to notify customers and make necessary modifications to accommodate increased capacities.
The news was a mixed blessing of sorts for Cook’s Montana Café, where owner Megan Brodeen has taken advantage of the restrictions on indoor dining to do some remodeling of the dining area. Half of the dining room is still under construction.
“The new regulations might have caught us with our wall down,” Brodeen said in a Facebook post. However, a few dine-in seats are available by reservation.
“We understand that this isn’t the most ideal situation and we all miss gathering over a great meal together, but we appreciate the support and understanding.”
In Ely, the Ely Steak House announced it would be opening indoor dining starting with lunch on Thursday, June 11.
“One-and-a-half-hour seating times will be implemented to help maximize our limited capacity and to ensure tables and chairs are properly cleaned and sanitized for everyone’s safety,” the restaurant’s social media page said Wednesday. The restaurant also encouraged patrons to wear masks.
Movie goers in Cook will still have to wait until mid-July for a possible re-opening of the movic screen at the Comet Theater, which also has a retail shop that is open.
Owner Carol Carlson said that the 25-percent limit on theater capacity would make it nearly impossible to make enough money to cover the 60-percent fee she has to pay a distributor and also pay staff. There also isn’t much at all available in the way of films right now, as with the closure of theaters ,studios and distributors have been releasing many new titles directly to online services.
“I can start when I’m ready and when there’s a good product,” Carlson said. “We’ll see what’s being released. Nothing this month, that’s for sure.”
While the eased restrictions were good news for many, sports enthusiasts’ hopes for resurrecting limited baseball and softball competition were dashed by additional guidance issued after the governor’s press conference.
The state Department of Health guidelines classify baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and numerous other sports as “medium risk,” and football, wrestling, group cheer, and other sports as “high risk.” For both high and medium risk activities, games and competition against other teams, even in unofficial scrimmages, are not allowed. Teams can practice as long as they remain under the 25-person limit, including coaches, and provide appropriate social distancing as described in the guidelines.
Should the guidelines remain unchanged going into the start of the new school year, it could force another round of team sports season cancellations.
Walz said the modifications were based on the type, length, and predictability of social contact in each setting. He emphasized that businesses should focus on safety for employees as well as patrons.
“We’ll head back to our restaurants, head back to our gyms and fitness centers,” Walz said. “We’re going to make sure we’re not asking workers to go back into unsafe conditions.”
State Health Department Commissioner Jan Malcolm reviewed COVID-19 testing and case information for the past two weeks and was cautiously optimistic about current trends.
“What you see here is a pretty interesting pattern,” she said. “We appear to have hit kind of a plateau with smaller waves in it. Metro hospitals have been busy, but statewide we’re in good shape for critical care capacity. This shows an encouragingly stable situation.”
More than 11,000 tests were administered statewide Thursday, Malcolm reported, with capacity for daily testing up to 15,000.
However, Malcolm said she didn’t know how the pandemic may continue to unfold.
“I can’t really predict with any confidence what’s going to happen in the next couple of months,” she said. “The bottom line is that we’re likely dealing with high levels of COVID-19 transmission for months to come. We have to learn to live with COVID-19.”