COVID-19 regulations in MN: What you need to know

A man in a mask rides a stationary bike.
Liam Connery works out on an exercise bike while wearing a mask at Lifetime Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn., on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Note: This article addresses a dial-back implemented by Gov. Tim Walz in early January. The state has since updated its rules. Find the latest information here.

Updated: Feb. 12, 11 a.m. | Posted: Jan. 6, 11 a.m.

Since the start of the pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz has put many restriction in place through executive orders aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, with rules that touch on a broad range of everyday life in the state.

In the middle of November, as cases were rising, hospitals were filling and the end of the year approached, Walz implemented restrictions meant to limit people's interactions ahead of the typically social holiday season.

Those restrictions limited bars and restaurants to takeout and delivery — though later allowed for outdoor dining — and banned gatherings, indoors or outdoors, among people from different households; those limits were loosened in mid-December.

In January, the state’s rules loosened again. Bars and restaurants are allowed to offer indoor dining — with limits. Movie theaters, museums and other entertainment venues are allowed to reopen, after being closed since mid-November.

On Feb. 12 — as case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend down — Walz announced a small change to the capacity limits associated with restaurants, entertainment venues and fitness facilities.

Unlike some previous orders there is not a set expiration date. Advisers to the governor said that is deliberate to allow for greater flexibility.

Here’s a snapshot of the latest rules — and which areas of life they will affect:

Restaurants and bars can return to indoor dining.

Restaurants and bars will now be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity — but won’t be allowed to host more than 250 people at a time.

Diners will be limited to groups of six people each — they must be seated 6 feet away from other groups in a restaurant, and reservations are now required.

Bar seating will be allowed, too, but will be limited to groups of two — the 6 feet of distance rule also applies to bar and counter seating.

Restaurants and bars will continue to be allowed to offer takeout service, but will be required to end their in-person service at 11 p.m. They can resume service at 4 a.m.

As continues to be the rule statewide, social distancing and mask-wearing are required.

Gyms and fitness centers can expand capacity.

Gyms, which reopened on Dec. 19, will be allowed to remain open at 25 percent capacity for individual exercise — with a “do not exceed” limit of 250 individuals.

People will still be required to wear masks, and all machines and people will be required to maintain 6 feet of social distancing when more than one person is exercising in a space.

Group exercise classes are allowed with restrictions — the class-size limit is no more than 25 people.

Other indoor and outdoor exercise and sports facilities — including climbing gyms, martial arts facilities and dance and exercise studios — will be allowed to continue to operate.

Pools are allowed to open at 25 percent capacity, with a “do not exceed” limit of 250.

Theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues can reopen.

Venues that offer indoor activities, like bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums, are now permitted to reopen. They will be limited to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 250 people in each area of a venue.

As in bars and restaurants, face coverings will be required, and food service must end by 11 p.m.

Venues that offer outdoor entertainment, including race tracks, paintball arenas, go-karts complexes, mini-golf courses, performance venues, festivals, fairs and amusement parks may continue to open at 25 percent capacity. They’re still allowed to have no more than 250 people in attendance.

Social distancing and mask-wearing are required.

Youth and adult sports can play, with spectators.

Youth and adult sports teams’ activity were on pause since November, and have been allowed to resume practicing since Jan. 4.

Those practices are allowed only in smaller groups with heightened precautions, and with COVID-19 preparedness plans in place. Teams have been required to form “pods” of no more than 25 people, keep 6 feet of distance from each other when not actively playing and masks must be worn at all times with some exceptions.

Games with spectators resumed Jan. 14, “following the appropriate capacity limits for indoor or outdoor venues,” according to the governor’s office. The state is discouraging tournaments that cross regions of the state and games against teams from outside Minnesota.

As of last month, organized sports restrictions are no longer being tied directly to county COVID-19 case data or a school learning model

Weddings, funerals and parties can resume — with restrictions.

The new order allows private gatherings — such as wedding receptions, funerals and parties — to resume, but with restrictions.

At a venue, if the event involves food or drinks and are hosted indoors, they’re limited to 25 percent capacity with a maximum of 50 people and the space must allow for 6 feet of distancing between households. If they’re outdoors and serving food or drinks, they’re also limited to 50 people at 25 percent capacity.

But if there is no food or drinks being served, the event is limited to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 250 people in each area of a venue, and with social distancing and masks required. Again, it applies to both indoor and outdoor events.

Related ceremonies — like wedding or funeral ceremonies — continue to be allowed, but are governed by the state’s rules for places of worship, which are allowed to remain open at half capacity, but aren’t capped at a maximum number.

Social gatherings not taking place at a business or venue continue to be more limited, with no more than two households and a maximum of 10 people when inside and 15 people from three households outside.

What questions do you have?

Have questions about the new restrictions? Tell us here and we’ll try to track down the answer.

COVID-19 in Minnesota

Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health's cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.

The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.

MPR News reporter Elizabeth Shockman contributed to this report.