Editorial: Better late than never, Walz finally sees the light

Thursday’s announcement that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions would soon come to an end was certainly welcome, albeit overdue.
For months, whether it’s been restrictions in schools, regulations on businesses, rules related to gatherings, or edicts related to masking - Gov. Tim Walz and his administration have overreached and overreacted.
But not even Walz, or those among his ranks who seemed bent on government rule, could look past the science, the improving data, the political heat and one other key point - the consent of the governed.
Today, there are more than 2.6 million Minnesotans vaccinated against COVID and the numbers keep growing by the day.
Cases in Minnesota are nowhere near where they were in November. They’re about 80 percent down as a matter of fact.
Hospitalizations and deaths have also plummeted and those most susceptible to the virus’s most negative effects have largely been vaccinated.
The original justification for the lockdowns and restrictions - remember flatten the curve? - was to shield our health care system from being overwhelmed. That threat has long passed.
So in many ways, together with a legislative session that comes with the threat of a state government shutdown, Walz had little choice but to make the moves he announced on Thursday.
Beginning immediately, there are no longer any restrictions on gatherings, outdoor dining, events, and there are no mask requirements outdoors - except at events with more than 500 people. The “curfew” for bars and restaurants has also gone away.
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Walz gets rid of all restrictions on businesses. No longer must there be six feet between tables and there are no artificial capacity limits.
And by July 1, or sooner if more Minnesotans become vaccinated, the indoor mask requirement goes by the wayside and long joked about mask burning parties may commence.
It will be all smiles for the Fourth of July, whether lining up on Sheridan Street for parade or gathering inside afterward.
There’s a chance that the indoor mask rules will be gone even sooner, as Walz’s either-or proviso allows the mandate to expire either on July 1 or as soon as 70 percent of eligible Minnesotans are vaccinated. The state is on pace for that to occur as soon as June 3, if the current rate of vaccinations holds up.
Whether you own a business or shop in town, whether you have a child in Little League or are planning a graduation party, these are welcome if not long overdue developments.
The perpetual “doom and gloom” crowd and those who have pined for a “new normal” may be the only ones disappointed.
Walz adjusted his restriction “dials” in March and gave his blessing to events such as high school proms and graduations, wedding receptions and attendance at Twins games, and now those events can happen “as normal,” although it may be a few more weeks until the masks come off at Target Field.
We wrote two months ago that we expected that by the summer, Minnesota will be fully open for business and events such as high school graduation, the Fourth of July and the Blueberry/Art Festival can take place with smiling, maskless faces.
That opinion hasn’t changed. Our businesses need the shot in the arm that a busy summer provides. Ely, and Minnesota, need to get moving again. Traveling. Vacationing. Working. Living.
We all need those events and happenings that, perhaps, we took too much for granted before COVID-19’s arrival a year ago.
Walz indeed took a step forward this week. Better late than never.