Businesses want to reopen, but how to do it safely?

A sign on the door indicates that the dining room is closed.
Doors were closed and locked to customers at the Chick-fil-A on Robert Street in West St. Paul March 18, 2020. Bars and restaurants across Minnesota are temporarily closed to dine-in customers in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Chris Graves | MPR News

More businesses see relief as Gov. Tim Walz’ stay-at-home order lapses on Monday. For the rest, bars, restaurants and salons among them, a possible restart date of June 1 offers some hope, but how exactly business will be conducted is still a question.

Stores that were forced to close nearly two months ago after being deemed nonessential are allowed to resume operations on Monday, but at 50 percent capacity.  Health officials still urge social distancing and that people stay home where possible to limit spread of the coronavirus, especially to those most vulnerable.

Hospitality Minnesota president and CEO Liz Rammer said her group had hoped restaurants and bars could open on May 18. Rammer said the state is still working on who exactly would provide personal protective equipment for employees, and if restaurants would reopen at 50 percent of capacity as the next wave of businesses has to do. She says the state also is working on how to make sure individual businesses have adequate safety plans.

Walz said Wednesday he will have guidelines to reopen salons, bars and restaurants by May 20.

Lauren Moore, a hairstylist from Minneapolis, has been out of work since the start of the stay-at-home order nearly eight weeks ago. She's an independent contractor, meaning she rents a chair space from a salon owner. While her husband has work, Moore still waits to hear if she qualifies for unemployment insurance.

Lauren Moore of Minneapolis, is a hairstylist
Lauren Moore of Minneapolis is a hairstylist and is concerned she won't get unemployment assistance because she rents a chair at a local salon and is considered self-employed.
Courtesy of Lauren Moore

“We have definitely really had to tighten our belt. We had been saving to partially pay off one of his student loans and thank God we didn’t do that,” she said.

Moore is also afraid to jump back into work in a salon. She wants to know who will make sure she and others in the hair, skin and nails industries have adequate PPE.

Walz issued an executive order Wednesday to bar retaliation against employees who don’t feel safe in their workplaces. The order says workers would qualify for unemployment, if they felt at risk of contracting COVID-19.

“We have to understand there are going to be situations where people say I don’t believe my store is safe or things are being followed, we want to make sure they will do that,” Walz said at a Wednesday press conference call.

Walz stressed reopening businesses could worsen the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, and that if he needs to shutter businesses again he will do so.

Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, warned health care workers will face even greater risks when businesses reopen. She said nurses tell her they continue to ration and reuse PPE.

”And then the fact that as more and more places open up, more people will need PPE,” Turner said. “That’s not to say the nurses don’t want the economy to open up like everyone else, but we just feel like we don’t have everything in place.”

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