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Minnesota eases more restrictions

Governor orders flags at half staff to honor COVID-19 victims

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota took further steps Friday to turn the dial on easing its restrictions meant to slow the coronavirus pandemic and to honor the victims of COVID-19.

While restrictions ease, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 20 more COVID-19 deaths, raising Minnesota’s death toll to 683, and a new one-day high of 808 confirmed cases, raising the total count to 14,240, which officials say is a big understatement of total infections.

The state’s infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann, told reporters in the department’s daily briefing that it’s important with the state’s stay-at-home order expiring Monday and some businesses reopening to continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

“We want you to enjoy the weather, we want you to look forward to Monday, but we want you to stay 6 feet apart, wear a cloth mask when you’re outside of your home, and don’t gather in groups any larger than 10,” she said.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered that flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday and on the 19th of every month through 2020 “to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.” He encouraged individuals, businesses, and other organizations to join in.

“I think this is a wonderful way to remind us that these are not just numbers,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters as she reviewed the health department’s updated statistics. “Going through these numbers every day, one can almost become numb to the fact that they represent — every one of them — a loved one and a family member and a neighbor.”

Young drivers will once again be able to take their license tests and other residents will once again be able to access most driver and vehicle services, the Department of Public Safety announced. The department is opening 16 exam stations statewide beginning Tuesday and resuming standard road tests May 26, with priority going to those who had their appointments canceled during the stay-at-home, though it’s not taking new appointments yet.

People whose driver’s licenses or official state ID cards expired during the shutdown will now be able to renew them. But the department said the stations will look different because of measures to protect customers and staff.

While campgrounds at Minnesota state parks remain closed, the federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will open Monday for both day and overnight use.

“We ask that visitors please continue to follow local, state and federal guidelines on staying safe and practice good hygiene and social distancing wherever they choose to visit,” Connie Cummins, supervisor of the Superior National Forest, said in a statement.

Other parts of the Superior and Chippewa National Forests in northern Minnesota will also open Monday for overnight camping at dispersed sites. Voyageurs National Park will reopen to overnight camping and houseboat mooring on Monday, thought visitors centers will remain closed, so visitors must print their permits at home.

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