Governor Walz announced the next steps in the state’s response to COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon. The Governor says all of the state’s elementary students will return to in-person classes on January 18th, provided individual districts can meet health and safety guidelines.

“We’ve known from the beginning of this getting our kids back into the classroom, academically, emotionally, socially, and doing it in a way to keep the students and teachers safe was very important, and we’re ready to take that next step,” said Walz.

Walz says there is a slight change in the guidance regarding social gatherings

“We would recommend not having gatherings,” said Walz. “But if you need to with one other family, no more than ten people, you can share some fellowship over Hanukah and Christmas.”

Indoor dining will remain paused until January 10th. Hospitality industry representatives released statements Wednesday saying the data doesn’t back up that restriction. Walz was asked about those statements in a Wednesday afternoon teleconference with greater Minnesota reporters.

“All of the health professionals, here in Minnesota and internationally, disagree with their interpretation of the data,” said Walz. “I don’t blame for their frustration but to make the case that spread isn’t happening in their establishments, that’s simply not the case. That’s false.”

Outdoor dining will be allowed beginning Saturday with limited capacity.

“I know we’re in Minnesota and I know this is the middle of December,” said Walz. “I know this doesn’t make things whole. But we’re trying to move as much as we can to mitigate the risk and at the same time allow for some of that economic activity.”

Health clubs will be allowed to re-open Saturday at 25 percent capacity with a mask requirement at all times. Youth and high school sports can begin practices starting January fourth.