Gathering size restrictions remain for places of worship, with plans for eased restrictions in future phases

Guidance for places of worship in Minnesota remains unchanged from previous weeks under the governor's order as other establishments are seeing some restrictions lifted under the state's reopening plans.

Wednesday, Minnesota state leaders unveiled further guidance about its phased reopening plans that will go in effect June 1. 

For places of worship, only 10 people or less are allowed inside or outside, however drive-in services are still permitted to continue. This gathering size restriction also extends to weddings and funerals.

In coming phases, state leaders are planning to lift some restrictions for churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious gathering places. In Phase III, gatherings indoors will be increased to 20 people or less. Outdoor services can allow for up to 100 people. Attendees will need to adhere to social distancing of six feet and masks will be required. In Phase IV, the plan would be to reopen places of worship with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. Dates have not been set for these future phases.

Under the guidelines going into place on June 1, restaurants will be allowed up to 50 customers with social distancing and masks. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he is "dumbfounded" why restrictions on churches have not been lifted when restrictions for stores and malls have been eased.

When pressed on these differences during the press conference, Governor Tim Walz said determining the distinctions was a "struggle."

"I think it goes with the predictability piece of it," said Walz. "I will again say that I don't think that it's perfect and I think that there are some things that we have to still continue to figure out.

As restrictions lessen, Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove says faith leaders will still need to be creative when it comes to parts of the service.

"We have to try some new things here," said Grove. "We've got to limit things like singing in those environments, which of course is such a great part of church or celebration, but when you look on the data on the choirs that have been just total hot spots for spread - even when social distancing existed."