Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Minnesota, US, to ease some business restrictions starting May 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Rochester, Minnesota
  • St. Cloud, Minnesota
  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Thief River Falls, Minnesota
  • Hibbing, Minnesota
  • Redwood Falls, Minnesota
  • Marshall, Minnesota
  • Mankato, Minnesota
  • Park Rapids, Minnesota

This alert began 16 May 2020 01:06 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 Restrictions
  • Location(s): Minnesota (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions

Minnesota Governor Timothy Walz issued an order that lifts restrictions on some businesses starting May 18, while multiple close-contact and indoor businesses remain closed through at least May 31, as part of the state's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The new order bans gatherings of 10 people or more, encourages residents to wear a face mask whenever they are in public and to limit time spent outside of their homes, especially for residents 65 years or older or those with underlying health conditions.

The order also stipulates that starting May 18, retail stores and malls may reopen, provided they limit the number of customers within their facilities to 50 percent of their maximum capacity. Businesses must also ensure social distancing measures, enhance sanitation procedures, ensure sick employees do not attend work and encourage work from home whenever possible. The new directive also allows for the reopening of state parks and forest, water accesses, golf courses, ski areas, remote camping sites, and outdoor sports that will enable social distance. Authorities had previously allowed for industrial, manufacturing, and office-based businesses to reopen, albeit with limitations.

Restaurants and bars may continue operating only for delivery and pickup services, while personal care businesses, such as hair salons and barber shops, theaters, cinemas, gyms, amusement parks, casinos, bowling alleys, and other entertainment venues, will remain closed. Officials had also canceled in-person school lessons for the remainder of the academic year. Nonessential businesses may operate with employees working from home. Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and shelters, as well as media, energy, transport, security, and critical manufacturing companies, may remain open.

Significant transport and business disruptions remain likely. Authorities will likely keep additional security personnel deployed to assist in enforcing the measures. Officials could amend the orders at short notice, depending on disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures will likely accelerate in the coming weeks; however, officials may reimpose or extend restrictions should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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