Walz to announce easing of some COVID-19 restrictions within the next week, including capacity limits

Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that he will soon ease Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions as the state moves beyond a spring surge in infections and hospitalizations. 

An announcement will happen late this week or early next week, Walz told reporters after touring a mobile vaccination site in Richfield.

"The next moves are capacity limits coming off and some of those types of things," Walz said. "Now we're getting a little more sense of comfort that perhaps we avoided the exponential spike (in cases)."

Walz avoided specifics ahead of what will be a closely watched announcement. The first-term Democratic governor has imposed restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for more than a year as the state sought to control the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of new COVID-19 cases has been decreasing week over week and the number of hospitalizations has gone down overall after peaking in mid-April. 

The Minnesota Twins announced Tuesday that the team would wait until May 7 to put single-game tickets on sale for home games from May 14-30.

"We've kind of telegraphed to them, keep open that if we do this right, more things will happen throughout the summer that we're able to do," Walz said when asked about sporting events.

As of Tuesday, 56 percent of Minnesota adults have received at least one vaccine dose. The state has sent mobile vaccination sites to at-risk communities, including the bus that Walz toured while it was parked at a Richfield apartment complex.

But vaccination rates in many Republican counties are lagging the statewide average. Walz called on Republican lawmakers to help address vaccine hesitancy or refusal in their districts.

"It's just the reality now, if I tell some of these counties it's Tuesday, they will disagree with me," the governor said. "That's just where we're at."

After months of shortages, vaccines are now widely available across Minnesota. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said officials were considering whether to open the FEMA vaccination site across from the state fairgrounds to walk-ins, though she noted that no decision had been made.

Malcolm said most Minnesotans who have gotten a Pfizer or Moderna dose are returning to complete the series. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that 5 million people had missed their second shot.