New year, new COVID-19 regulations in MN: What you need to know

People crowd a bar in front of TV's
People crowd the bar of the Kollege Klub in Dinkytown the evening before state restrictions went into effect banning in-person service in bars and restaurants in Minneapolis, Minn., on Nov. 20, 2020. Minnesota is now loosening some of the rules on in-person dining.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz announced the newest phase of Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday, with new 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. The holiday-focused regulations are set to expire this weekend.

Now, the state’s rules are loosening. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining — with limits — starting again Jan. 11. Movie theaters, museums and other entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen, after being closed since mid-November.

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, which for weeks have been limited to takeout-only or outdoor seating, will now be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity — but won’t be allowed to host more than 150 people at a time.

Diners will be limited to groups of six people each — they must be seated six 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.

Restaurants and bars will continue to be allowed to offer takeout service, but will be required to end their in-person service at 10 p.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.

People will still be required to wear masks, and all machines and people will be required to maintain 9 feet of social distancing when more than one person is exercising in a space.

Group exercise classes were allowed to resume on Jan. 4 with restrictions — but now the class-size limit has been raised to 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 were allowed to open, beginning Jan. 4 for lessons, lap swim and organized team practices — provided they follow industry safety guidelines — and are now permitted to open at 25 percent capacity.

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 150 people in each area of a venue.

As in bars and restaurants, face coverings will be required, and food service must end by 10 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. Now, they’re 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 are scheduled to resume 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.

If the event involves food or drinks and are hosted indoors, they’re limited to 10 people or two households. If they’re outdoors and serving food or drinks, they’re limited to 15 people or three households.

But if there is no food or drinks being served, private gatherings need to follow the guidelines set out for event venues: limited to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 150 people in each area of a venue, and with masks required.

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.

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.

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