Minnesota is moving into the third phase of its reopening under Governor Tim Walz’s plan on June 1st. After plenty of comments from the public, however, he’s been making last-minute changes to the plan. The most recent update offered more opportunities for people to out for dinner and put some food in their bellies. Food for the soul, on the other hand, still won’t be quite as available. Restaurants will be allowed to host up to fifty customers on outdoor patio seating, but churches will remain limited to 10 congregants whether they are indoors or outdoors. (Washington Examiner)
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Wednesday that restaurants will be able to host up to 50 customers in outdoor seating but that churches will still be limited to 10 no matter the setting.
Walz announced several changes to his coronavirus policies that will take effect on June 1, including the limited reopening of hair salons and tattoo parlors. Under the new guidance, restaurants will be able to allow 50 customers to dine in on outdoor patios. Customers and employees are encouraged to wear masks, though it is not clear how customers would wear a mask while eating or drinking in the restaurant.
Churches were not granted more liberty by Walz. Under the policy, indoor and outdoor religious services are still limited to 10 or fewer people. Religious groups can still host drive-up services.
It’s not hard to see where the Governor’s priorities line up here. The needs of people of faith clearly aren’t deemed as urgent as the need to allow restaurant owners to get back into gear. You could almost forgive this if the relative risks posed by the types of gatherings we’re talking about were reversed, but that’s not the case. Congregants can make it through an entire sermon while wearing masks. Diners have to remove their masks in order to eat or drink. Unless you’re picking up a hymnal, you can get through the entire church service without touching anything but your chair/pew. Diners will be touching silverware, glasses, condiments and napkins, so there’s a lot more sanitizing to be done.
These points have been raised to Walz already, but his only response was to say that the answer wasn’t “perfect.” He then launched into a rambling sort of answer about the “predictability” of people attending a church that wound up sounding like a striking impression of Joe Biden when his mind begins to wander.
“I think, and I’m hearing strongly on this, of trying to figure out how we make that happen because I think the logic behind it, and I think, again, it was the predictability of who’s there. But I think you could argue, ‘Boy, I see the same people every Sunday at my congregation and, in fact, the Smiths sat in the same pew every year for 30 years, so we know exactly where they’re at and we know exactly where they are,'” Walz said.
What does that even mean? Even if you theoretically knew who was going to show up for church every week and where they were going to sit, wouldn’t that make it easier to enforce social distancing? Walz claims that he’s aware that he needs to “fix” the issue of church attendance but offered no plans of how to do so.
Nothing will be getting better when Minnesota reaches phase four of his plan, either. At that point, churches will be allowed to have 20 people indoors and up to 100 people outdoors. But restaurants will be allowed to begin serving indoors at that point with no maximum capacity specified. Perhaps someone needs to remind Governor Walz that citizens have a Constitutional right to practice their religion, but there is no comparable right regarding going out to dinner.