Big Ole is back to the way he used to look.

City workers took off his light-blue mask Monday, May 18.

"I removed it this morning about 5 a.m. ," said Bill Thoennes, public works director for the city. "With the stay-at-home order expiring and the 'Stay Safe Minnesota' in place, we thought it was a good time to remove."

The famous Viking statue that stands guard over North Broadway was fitted with the mask on April 30 as part of a collaborative community project involving volunteers and city staff to promote safety and strength during the coronavirus pandemic.

By staying home, Minnesotans successfully pushed out the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and bought the state time to get ready to treat those who fall ill, according to Gov. Tim Walz. In that time, the state:

  • Built out hospital capacity.

  • Increased ventilators and ICU beds.

  • Worked with public and private partners, as well as individual Minnesotans, to source personal protective equipment.

  • Launched a landmark testing strategy with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to test every symptomatic Minnesotan.

The state is now slowly "moving the dial" by introducing more interaction between people over time, according to state health leaders.

They added, however, that as the state takes cautious steps forward, it is more important than ever for Minnesotans to protect those most at risk, support workers and do their part to slow the spread of the virus.

As part of Stay Safe Minnesota, residents are encouraged to:

  • Wash their hands often.
  • Get tested when sick.
  • Maintain social distance.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay home when able.

"We know there’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we have made significant strides to prepare for it," said Walz. "And work remains to ensure that individuals and communities across the state have the resources that they need to weather the storm."