Minnesota’s COVID-19 Stay at Home Order: Seven Key Takeaways

Submitted by HKM Profession… on Thu, 03/26/2020 - 12:01

Stay Home Stay SafeBy: Michael S. Mather

On March 25, 2020, Governor Tim Walz signed Emergency Executive Order 20-20, making Minnesota the 21st state to institute a “Stay at Home” or “Shelter in Place” order in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic outbreak (https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/execorders/20-20.pdf).

Below are seven key takeaways to help guide implementation of the Order into your personal and professional lives.


  1. All Minnesotans Must Stay at Home for the Next Two Weeks, with Some Exceptions.
  2. The Order requires all persons currently living within the State of Minnesota to stay at home or their place of residence unless engaging in an excepted activity or critical sector work, as defined below. The Order begins at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 27, 2020 and continues through 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020. The Order may be extended by future executive order at the discretion of the Governor and with approval of the Executive Council.

  1. Minnesotans May Continue Certain Activities Necessary to Maintain Their Health, Safety, and Physical and Emotional Well-Being.
  2. The Order exempts six categories of activities from its broad, general reach, including:  

    • Relocation to ensure safety. Residents may leave their home or place of residence if necessary to maintain a safe living environment. This includes individuals who have suffered or may suffer domestic violence or who live in places where the safety, sanitation, or essential operations cannot be properly maintained.
    • Health and safety. Residents may leave their home to seek emergency services, medical, health, or dental care, medical supplies and medications, to seek veterinarian services, or to donate blood.
    • Outdoor activities. Residents may engage in outdoor activities (including walking, running, biking, hunting, fishing, or driving for pleasure) and visit available public parks. Any Minnesotan engaging in these activities is encouraged to follow all Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines, including social distancing, to the greatest extent possible.
    • Necessary supplies and services. Residents may leave their homes to obtain necessary supplies such as food, including delivery or carry-out services, beverages, groceries, gasoline, home office supplies, and other products needed to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of their home and residence.
    • Care of others. Residents may leave home to care for a family member, friend, or pet and may transport family members, friends, and pets to participate in Excepted Activities, including travel necessary to comply with any pre-existing parenting time schedules or other visitation schedules related to a child in need of protective services (CHIPS) proceeding.
    • Essential intrastate and interstate travel.Residents can travel as necessary to participate in an exempted activity and to return home. This includes both intrastate and interstate travel.

    Individuals without a permanent home or place of residence are excepted from these restrictions and may move freely between emergency shelters, drop-in centers, and encampments. The order further directs state and local governments to refrain from sweeping or disbanding encampments to minimize the potential risk and spread of COVID-19.

    The Governor’s office continues to clarify and update these exempted activities. All clarifications and updates are available at the following link: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/.

  1. If You Can Work from Home, You Must Work from Home.
  2. To minimize the spread of COVID-19 throughout the State, the Order directs that any Minnesotan capable of working from home must do so. This broad restriction includes those employed in Critical Sectors as discussed in the next section.

  1. Certain Critical Sector Employers May Continue On-Site Operations, but Only If Those Functions Cannot be Performed From Home.
  2. The Order exempts certain workers from its broad “work from home” directive if that work: (1) falls within one of the Critical Sectors listed in the Order; and (2) the work can be done only at a place of work outside the home. These exceptions allow the worker to travel between their home or place of residence and their place of work. Necessary travel may include transportation to and from childcare or school settings as necessary for the well-being of a child.

    It is important to note that these exceptions apply to the employee, not the employer. This means some employees may fit within a Critical Sector exemption (and may continue to travel to work) while others may not.

    Critical Sectors include those employed in the following professions and industries:


    • Health care and public health
    • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
    • Food and agriculture
    • Energy
    • Water and wastewater
    • Transportation and logistics
    • Public Works
    • Communication and information technology
    • Community-based government operations and functions
    • Critical manufacturing
    • Hazardous materials
    • Financial services
    • Chemical
    • Defense industrial base
    • Tribal governments
    • The Judicial Branch
    • The Executive Branch
    • The Legislative Branch
    • Executive constitutional offices
    • Federal employees
    • National Guard
    • Faith leaders
    • Education
    • Construction and critical trades
    • Childcare providers
    • Hotels, residential facilities and shelters
    • Shelters
    • Charitable and social service organizations
    • Legal services
    • Notaries
    • Critical labor union functions
    • Laundry services
    • Animal shelter and veterinarians
    • Real estate professionals
    • Essential supply stores

    Each Critical Sector contains its own limitations and exceptions and is subject to further guidance and clarification by further executive order. Further detail and an up-to-date list of clarifications to Critical Sector exemptions are available at: https://mn.gov/deed/critical.

    These guidelines only apply to Minnesota citizens. Minnesota businesses with operations in other states may be subject to other restrictions and limitations. HKM has been and continues to monitor these changes and advise clients on these issues.

  1. Non-Critical Sector Employers Must Temporarily Cease On-Site Operations.
  2. For workers and employers outside the 35 Critical Sectors or their subsections, all on-site operations must temporarily cease. The Order does not apply to and does not restrict any virtual work to telework (i.e. work from home) capabilities and activities.

  1. Intentional Violation of the Order Is a Crime.
  2. Properly authorized executive orders have the force and effect of law during peacetime emergencies. Under Section 12.45 of the Minnesota Statutes, any willful violation of a properly authorized executive order is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than 90 days.

    While these penalties are in effect, Governor Walz has emphasized the State’s efforts are currently focused on education and safety rather than enforcement. The Governor urged voluntary compliance.

  1. The Order Does Not Apply to Federal Workers or Persons Living on Federally Protected Tribal Lands.
  2. Minnesotans employed by the federal government or living on federal land held in trust for Tribal Nations are exempt from the Order’s restrictions but may be subject to other restrictions enacted by the federal government or applicable tribal authorities.  


Questions? We’re Here to Help.

HKM’s attorneys are continually monitoring the ever-changing response to this unprecedented situation. We have been asked by several clients to help interpret and navigate the nuances presented by Stay-at-Home Orders issued throughout the United States. We stand ready to assist all in these uncertain times.

We hope your families stay safe as we work through this difficult time together.