Updated: May 05, 2021 07:12 PM
Created: May 05, 2021 05:52 AM
Gov. Tim Walz says he will announce "a timeline to end all COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota" on Thursday.
“As millions of Minnesotans are getting vaccinated, Governor Walz is making plans to wind down COVID-19 restrictions and get Minnesota back to business as usual," the governor's office said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "The vaccine is here, and it has proven to be our best tool to control the virus. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, get vaccinated, and crush the virus.”
Yesterday the governor did acknowledge he's been in talks with legislative leaders about ending COVID restrictions as part of the end of the session negotiations.
"We are in talks about what Thursday's announcement will look like," the governor said while visiting a school in Hopkins. "This summer's going to look a little different than certainly last summer. We're going to be back in the stadiums. We're going to be in swimming pools. We're going to be doing the things we should be doing in summer."
At a Capitol news conference on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said it's time for most of the governor's emergency orders to end.
"Removing restrictions on schools, businesses, places of public accommodation and youth sports, those mandates should all be lifted," he said. "The key executive orders that need to go away ... one is the mask mandates. That doesn't mean people can't wear their masks. It doesn't mean businesses can't choose what they want to do. But the governor should not have the ability to have a mandate on everybody wearing the masks."
While the governor will announce a timeline for lifting all restrictions, it's unclear what the timelines will be. Sources also tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it's possible the governor could lift COVID-19 restrictions but still retain emergency powers that can be used to help some businesses.
"One of the emergency powers allows bars and restaurants to put tables in the streets where they can expand their capacity," the governor said Wednesday. "I don't think they're asking me to get rid of that."
Walz has said further easing will depend on the state of the virus and vaccinations.
Recently, the state's vaccination pace has slowed a bit.
At one point, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds was one of Minnesota's busiest sites, but walk-in appointments just ended Tuesday.
With about 60% of eligible Minnesotans vaccinated, some are wondering how the state is going to reach that other 40%.
"It is going to slow down because, to be very honest, over half of Minnesotans are now vaccinated in general so the universe is smaller," Walz said. "It's going to a little bit more but I still am very confident we can get to that 70%."
Thursday's announcement comes as other states have already revealed their reopening plans. Florida's governor lifted most of his state's COVID-19 restrictions on Monday and New York will lift most restrictions on May 19.
Walz says Minnesota will likely fall somewhere in between with its restrictions.
Walz says despite falling vaccination numbers, the state is right on track when it comes to getting people vaccinated. In fact, he says Minnesota is second in the nation.
Dr. Kevin Best, with Allina Health, said while the demand for the shot doesn't seem as strong, there's still plenty of interest.
"I think it's a testament to what the healthcare industries and pharmacies and everybody was able to do in getting through a lot of those people and getting them vaccinated really quickly," he said. "Our numbers have really been pretty impressive."
Though Walz hasn't said exactly what the Thursday update to restrictions is expected to be, he said Minnesotans should plan on having a normal summer.
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