A shopper wearing a mask and using an umbrella leaves the St. Louis Park Costco hours after Gov. Tim Walz gave a stay-at-home order on Wednesday. The order, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state and minimize its impacts, is a dramatic step that requires people to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Credit: Evan Frost | MPR News

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state and tamp down its impacts, is a dramatic step that requires people to stay home unless absolutely necessary. 

It’s a far-reaching measure that has the potential to drastically impact the lives of all Minnesotans, changing the ways in which we work, play, learn and go about our daily lives. 

But what will it mean, in practical terms? 

If you have a question about how this will impact your life, send it to us. We’ll continue to update this article with answers to your questions.

When does the stay-at-home order go into effect? 

The order goes into effect just before midnight on Friday, March 27. It is set to last until Friday, April 10 at 5 p.m.

So…what am I still allowed to do? 

Lots of things. Minnesotans are allowed to do several things outside their homes —  as long as they follow social distancing recommendations. 

Get “necessary supplies and services.” If you need something, you can go get it. This includes food (groceries, delivery or carry-out), beverages (including alcohol; liquor stores are not closed under the order), gas, supplies that will help you work from home, and products you need to clean and maintain homes, vehicles, bicycles and businesses. State officials ask residents to use their best judgment and purchase only what they need. You can also leave to do your laundry!

Get medical care. If you need emergency medical services, of course you’re allowed to leave your home. You can also go if you need other medical services, supplies, or medications — or to visit a health care or dental professional or facility. You can also leave to visit a veterinarian. And you may leave to donate blood. 

Care for others. You may leave to care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, or to provide transportation for them. The order specifically identifies “existing parenting time schedules or other visitation schedules pertaining to a child in need of protective services” as acceptable reasons for leaving home under the order.

Get out of an unsafe situation. You may also move to another residence if your home becomes unsafe, or if you’re in an unsafe situation — the governor’s order specifically referenced those “who have suffered or are at risk of domestic violence.” People without a home are exempt from the restrictions in the governor’s order, and are allowed to move among emergency shelter, drop-in centers and encampments. The order also specifically forbids “sweeps or disbandment” of homeless encampments, saying that they would exacerbate the potential spread of the coronavirus. 

Get home. The order also allows people to travel within the state, and out of state, for allowed activities — and to return home. 

Take a drive.  The order says people are allowed to “drive for pleasure,” and may go to public parks and other public places that are open, as long as they maintain safe social distancing.

Travel within or between tribal lands.  Minnesota’s Native American reservations, federal trust lands and activities on the state’s treaty territories are exempt from the restrictions in Walz’s order. Several Native nations have already put in place their own restrictions. The Red Lake Nation, for instance, has enacted a curfew that restricts movement on the Red Lake reservation between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The Walz order also allows tribal members to travel among reservations.

Can I go outside? 

Yes! People are still encouraged to head outside. When he announced the stay-at-home order, Gov. Walz emphasized that getting out for a walk is a “good thing,” that fresh air is crucial for maintaining physical and mental health. 

But Walz also cautioned to “be smart about this.” People must maintain six feet of social distance from members of other households — and continue to take the same precautions we have put in place so far: covering coughs, washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. 

The city of Duluth parks department has even released a handy graphic detailing exactly what six feet looks like.

Allowed activities include: walking, hiking, running, biking, driving for pleasure, hunting and fishing. 

People are also allowed to go to public parks and other public spaces that are still open, though the order notes that events and gatherings at those public spaces should remain canceled for the time being.

Can I go to work?

It depends.

For weeks, state officials have urged people to work from home, if they can. This order makes those requests official: “All workers who can work from home must do so.”

People who work in what are considered “critical sectors” and who cannot work from home are allowed to leave home to travel back and forth between their homes and workplaces. They’re also allowed to transport kids to child care. 

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said 78 percent of jobs in the state are part of what the state deems “critical sectors,” which will not be required to temporarily close. Grove’s Department of Employment and Economic Development is maintaining a detailed list of the jobs that are exempt from the travel restrictions in the order. The order lists about three dozen sectors that are deemed critical, including:

  • Health care and public health
  • Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
  • Child care
  • Transportation, including public transit workers
  • Construction and critical trades, including skilled trades like electricians and plumbers, and janitorial staff of commercial and government buildings. 
  • Food and agriculture
  • Water and wastewater
  • Critical manufacturing, including iron ore mining and processing operations. 

If you have a question about whether your business or employer is considered “essential, “ you can send an email to state economic development officials at criticalsectors@state.mn.us

Can my kids go to school?

Walz issued an order in the middle of March that closed schools from March 18 through 27

“This time period is to allow our school districts to adapt, to prepare for distance learning and to do the things that we need to do that are multi-fold when a decision like this is made,” he said at the time.

Since then, districts and parents have adapted to the change, trying to figure out creative ways to meet students’ food, educational and care needs

Schools are set to provide distance learning beginning on Monday, March 30. When he issued the stay-at-home order, Walz also extended the school closure through May 4. 

So, for the month of April and a little beyond, Minnesota schools will be closed to in-person instruction, but “must provide continuous education.” Schools are required to allow their employees to work remotely, whenever possible.

How will the new restrictions be enforced (if at all)? 

According to the executive order, anyone who willfully violates the restrictions could be punished with a fine up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail. 

However, Gov. Walz is urging Minnesotans to voluntarily comply with the executive order. If someone does violate it, he said, “we don’t want them to be arrested. We want to educate people. This requires voluntary social compliance.”

While the state would have the ability to arrest someone, Walz said, “we have no desire to do that.”

How is this order different from the ones that have already been issued?

Walz has already issued several orders since early March, all aimed at keeping Minnesotans from congregating in ways that might aid the disease’s spread.

So far, bars and restaurants have shifted to takeout-only service. Businesses that provide “public accommodation,” like gyms and health clubs, theaters, museums and bowling alleys — and those that require close human contact, like salons and tattoo parlors — have been closed.

That order, which was originally scheduled to expire on March 27, has now been extended until 5 p.m on May 1. 

Will public transit remain open? 

Yes. Transit workers are considered essential employees. 

However, many systems have cut back service. Metro Transit in the Twin Cities, for example, has cut back on its daily service in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Several public transit organizations have also implemented rear-door boarding to limit interaction between drivers and passengers, and some, including Fargo-Moorhead buses, are going fare-free during the epidemic.

CONTRIBUTING REPORTER Dan Kraker is based in Duluth, Minn., and covers northeastern Minnesota for MPR News.