Walz OKs golfing, boating at safe distance

Preparing greens
With the weather warming and pressure rising to open up some outdoor activities during the pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz on Friday said Minnesotans could hit the links and lakes this weekend — at a safe distance.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2014

Updated 3:45 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday eased back on the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions to let Minnesotans go golfing and hit the lakes, starting this weekend.

Walking, hiking, running, biking and driving for pleasure have been allowed under the stay-home rules provided people stayed at least 6 feet apart. Outdoor shooting ranges are also allowed to open.

Campgrounds and dispersed camping, outdoor recreational equipment retail stores, recreational equipment rental, charter boats, launches, and guided fishing remain closed.

The Minnesota Golf Association Friday afternoon posted guidance to follow, including paying online, not sharing clubs or a cart and keeping hands off the flagsticks on greens.

“Do not be the one to jeopardize the privilege of playing this great game for your fellow golfers,” the group implored.

Beyond golf and boating, the open water fishing season is expected to open as scheduled next month, although Walz canceled planned events around the annual Governor’s Fishing Opener weekend. Hunting and fishing were not part of the activities restricted by the stay-at-home order.

News that Minnesotans could hit the links and lakes came a day after University of Minnesota researchers say they could soon be ready to test 10,000 people daily for COVID-19, a development that could help give health experts a better understanding of the coronavirus’ true extent and lead to a reopening of the state.

Walz this week has said repeatedly that Minnesota needs a drastic increase in COVID-19 testing in the next three weeks in order to begin safely reopening the state's economy. He’s pushing for 5,000 completed tests a day by May 4, when his stay-at-home order is set to expire.

The U of M is asking the Legislature for $20 million to ramp up its testing efforts. Researchers at the school started from scratch to build a testing regimen that wouldn’t suffer from current supply shortages.

Speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, Walz encouraged Minnesotans to go out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend while staying vigilant about the disease and the ongoing need to check its spread.

He asked, though, that people go outdoors close to home.

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