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Who and what is and isn’t covered by Minnesota’s new ‘stay-at-home’ order

Under Minnesota’s new ‘stay-at-home’ directive, you can exercise outside while following social distancing guidelines in your neighborhood or at a local park.
MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig
Under Minnesota’s new ‘stay-at-home’ directive, you can exercise outside while following social distancing guidelines in your neighborhood or at a local park.

Gov. Tim Walz has ordered people to stay home for two weeks starting late Friday night unless they need or provide basic services like food and medical help. 

The edict represents Minnesota’s biggest effort yet to constrain the COVID-19 pandemic and health officials say it will help prevent hospitals and intensive care units from being overwhelmed by sick patients.

Walz’s directive locks down many aspects of public life and could put nearly 30 percent of Minnesotans out of work, though it still allows a raft of workers to stay on the job if they’re deemed “essential.” That includes people employed at utility companies, child care facilities and gas stations. It also lets Minnesotans access basic needs at places like grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies and hardware stores. You can also exercise outside while following social distancing guidelines in your neighborhood or at a local park. The new order is less stringent than similar ones in other states.

“I’m asking you to buckle it up for a few more weeks here,” Walz said in a televised address on Wednesday.


Here’s what Minnesota’s stay-at-home order restricts (and doesn’t) — and how it will be enforced:

How long will the stay-at-home order last?

The state order begins at 11:59 p.m. on Friday and lasts until 5 p.m. Friday, April 10. It’s the first step in a three-part effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow hospitals to get materials and resources, such as ventilators for patients, needed to fight the disease.

Once the order expires, however, the dining rooms at bars and restaurants will remain closed until May 1, as will other businesses that had been shuttered due to the coronavirus before the latest directive.

What counts as an essential business?

While Walz’s order will close offices for a huge swath of Minnesota, many workers deemed essential may still report to their jobs. Broadly, essential jobs include:

  • Health care workers
  • Law enforcement and first responders
  • Emergency shelters
  • Child care facilities
  • Grocery stores, take-out restaurant service, farmers and other agriculture workers
  • News organizations
  • Power, gas and water services
  • Wastewater treatment and other sanitation or public works
  • Critical manufacturing, such as iron ore mining
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Construction and some trades, such as electricians, plumbers and elevator technicians
  • Financial services, including workers at banks


More exhaustive information can be found in the 28-page document itself

Who is not essential?

In-house dining and entertainment at places like theaters, clubs and stadiums are not considered essential services, though those businesses are already closed.

More than 164,000 people have applied for unemployment insurance since the COVID-19 crisis began, said Steve Grove, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Grove said his agency estimates 78 percent of the jobs in Minnesota are in critical industries as defined by Walz’s executive order. Grove estimated 28 percent of people in Minnesota will be “temporarily jobless” in Minnesota during the two-week period, and 59 percent of people not working will have access to some kind of paid leave.

In the Minneapolis metro area, a study by the real-estate website Commercial Cafe says about 48 percent of workers fit general essential guidelines, and it estimated more than 1 million workers would need to stay home or work from home. But Grove said Minnesota’s definition of essential industries is more expansive than the federal one.

A list published by DEED categorizes what industries are considered not essential in more detail. Some examples of businesses currently deemed nonessential a determination that could change are nonmetallic mining operations, fabric mills, printing companies, auto dealers, furniture stores, lawn and garden supply stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, florists and general office administrative or advertising services.

Grove said businesses and workers who aren’t sure if they’re considered essential can seek further guidance on the DEED website.

What should I do if I get laid off?

Many workers can apply for unemployment insurance at the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program website. The state has taken several steps to expand the program to cover more workers affected by the economic disruption of COVID-19. 

The unemployment program generally covers half your weekly salary, up to a maximum of $740, for 26 weeks. Congress appears poised to increase that benefit, lengthen the time you can receive it and expand the number of people who are eligible to include contractors, gig workers like Uber drivers, and others.


The state wants people to apply online for unemployment benefits rather than call in to save the phone lines for those without internet access or who aren’t English speakers.

Grove noted some employers are hiring, like the state Department of Corrections, grocery stores and Walmart.

Can I leave my house?

If you are not an essential worker, the governor said you are not barred from leaving your house altogether. You can still go out to get medical help or care for others, pick up medications, and buy other needed things like gasoline, home-office supplies and even booze. You can leave your residence if you feel unsafe, such as if you’re at risk of domestic violence. Getting your car fixed, bringing a pet to the vet, donating blood or visiting a laundromat or dry cleaner is also allowed.

Still, Walz’s order bans indoor gatherings such as house parties or visiting people who don’t live in your home.

What about going outside?

You are free to go outdoors as long as you follow federal guidance to stay 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you. The executive order says walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting and fishing are still allowed. State parks remain open, though with some limitations on services. 

“Be smart about this, don’t congregate together,” Walz said. “But if you can get out and social distance and walk, that’s a good thing.”

How will this be enforced?

Walz’s executive order says people who willfully violate the rules would by guilty of a misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $1,000 or up to 90 days in prison. Still, Walz told reporters he is focused on educating people to stay home rather than arresting people or using law enforcement to keep them from gathering.

“I know this requires voluntary social compliance to a large part,” Walz said. 

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/25/2020 - 06:57 pm.

    Of course I like being essential, but, given how few of us aren’t, I don’t feel all that special.

  2. Submitted by John Garry on 03/25/2020 - 07:43 pm.

    “While Walz’s order will close offices for a huge swath of Minnesota…” Thanks for including it this way There’s so much focus on who is exempted, but no one is saying, “This means most of you cannot go to work starting on Saturday.” The articles keep referring to “residents” should stay home. I think it needs to be stated also that “workers” in most cases need to stay home.

  3. Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/26/2020 - 11:24 am.

    I teach foreign nationals who are here as resident aliens and who have social security numbers and pay taxes. A few of my students believed that they do not qualify for unemployment insurance because they are not citizens.

    While I believe this is not true, I hope news media will cover this story and set people at ease with the truth of the matter. People who are working and paying taxes should qualify for unemployment insurance.

    Please make a point of discussing this in your news, and pass this along to other news media agencies. I have contacted CBS News with this story.

  4. Submitted by Clayton Haapala on 03/26/2020 - 11:26 am.

    I haven’t looked at the 28-page list, but I was reminded on Tuesday that garage door cables can snap at any time, and my repairman sure looked essential to me!

  5. Submitted by Deborah Gelbach on 03/26/2020 - 11:34 am.

    Thanks for this, Walker. It answered a lot of questions.

  6. Submitted by Cynthia Callahan on 03/26/2020 - 02:12 pm.

    It seems to me if Governor Waltz really wants to flatten the curve they should be requiring businesses to give paid time off or offer unemployment to older at-risk workers. Many retail workers have been deemed essential and are being forced to work in unsafe conditions. Yes, some companies are trying to protect their workers, but many are going face to face with hundreds if not thousands of people a day with no PPE. They’ll end up being the first ones on ventilators. I guess we’ve been deemed expendable.

    • Submitted by Cheryl Hendrickson on 03/31/2020 - 12:24 pm.

      I totally agree!! My employer, has deemed itself, ‘Critical Manufacturing’. We employ many older people, and people with pre existing conditions. Every day we have to go in, feels like a crap shoot…. My 86 year mother, is currently bunkered down in her townhome, and relies on me for all her needs.

  7. Submitted by Diane Lalim on 03/26/2020 - 03:03 pm.

    Helllo, my husband works for a factory in Minnesota. He had radiation for prostrate cancer in October. His business does not intend to shut down, would my husband be ok to take a leave from work with getting unemployment benefits with out jeopardizing his job.

  8. Submitted by Wayne Jarvi on 03/27/2020 - 03:46 pm.

    Hi, as a pass time many are allowed to run, walk, ride bike, etc. My pass time along with these other is also riding motorcycle. I assume this is acceptable as long as I am not congregating with others, just out for a pleasure rid?

  9. Submitted by joe smith on 03/28/2020 - 11:22 am.

    Will be interesting to see if all these drastic measures were necessary. Two cases, we the common folk, have heard about makes many question the shutting down of our State and country. First, Diamond Princess Cruise ship had 3,700 people on board when it was at sea and found to be infected with Coronavirus. People moved around freely for most of the cruise before they were sent to their rooms after some tested positive for the virus. In total 700 folks tested positive for Coronavirus, 83% tested negative. The experts had predicted much higher rates of spread in a closed, small area ship environment. Second, Rudy Gobert of Utah Jazz, was sick on a Saturday night game in the NBA road game, but he played. Traveled with team on plane and buses for game on Monday night, where he also played. Got tested Monday evening for Coronavirus and traveled home to Salt Lake with the team on Tuesday. Was feeling much better Wednesday night before the home game when test came back he was infected with Coronavirus. There was 58 folks in the Utah traveling party that spent 4 days with Gobert in close proximity, 1 other person tested positive for the virus, Donovan Mitchell, his teammate.
    Looking into 2 different events like these makes we wonder if we are shutting down the State and country out of panic. Is this going to pan out being an aggressive flu bug, 36,000 people die from the flu annually here. Time will tell…….

  10. Submitted by Connie Kitterman on 03/29/2020 - 05:07 am.

    My husband’s place of employment says he has to work even though they are not essential, what can he do? I heard some people say they have a sort of permit that says they can travel to work but he didn’t get one. Are they supposed to give him one? I told him to tell the owners that he will be staying at their house for 2 weeks because I don’t want to get sick. Can he refuse to work without getting fired? Why should he have to put himself and his family at risk just because they don’t feel the need to shut down?

  11. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 03/29/2020 - 07:55 am.

    People who cut are are deemed non essential. You think most women think not getting your haircut for 2 months is no big deal? In addition, most are independent contractors, so no unemployment benefits. This is over kill in opinion.

  12. Submitted by Greta Azure on 03/30/2020 - 04:53 pm.

    So upset that people are not following the stay-at-home order I live in Taylors falls and today it is flooded and overrun with tourist this is so upsetting!! I don’t understand why people are not thinking of others health they’re not thinking of their own this just blows my mind it is so completely packed do they not understand what is happening?

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