Minneapolis bars being forced to close again due to COVID-19

July 30, 2020

 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (pictured) on Wednesday ordered that indoor bar areas be closed in the state’s largest city as coronavirus cases have surged in young adults.

At least nine bars have been tied to virus outbreaks, with at least seven customers testing positive. The city said more than half of its new cases are in people younger than 35 who report increased exposure in bars and at gatherings of family and friends.

“A night out at the bar is too often leading to nights in the hospital for family, for friends and for neighbors,” Frey said. “By focusing on bar areas, which are proven to be hotbeds for congregation and community spread, we can help keep both Minneapolis and Minnesotans safe and can help keep trends stable.”

The regulation, which goes into effect on Saturday, includes bars, nightclubs, distilleries, tap rooms and bar areas inside restaurants. Patrons can still go to these establishments but must be seated and served from socially distanced tables.

City Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said cases have steadily increased citywide since June 21, roughly two weeks after Gov. Tim Walz issued reopening guidelines. The city is reporting a rate of 18 new cases per 100,000 people per day, significantly higher than the state’s roughly 11 per day.

At least 367 Minneapolis cases have been tied to bars as of last Monday, and the city’s positive test rate of 9% is nearly double the statewide rate.

Kris Ehresmann, the state health department’s director of infectious diseases, said during a press call Wednesday that state officials are looking into 28 bars, restaurants and similar establishments across the state, which remain a “significant driver” in the recent rise in cases.

The state reported 681 new confirmed cases of the virus on Wednesday, slightly below the 14-day average, and nine new deaths. Minnesota has seen an uptick in new daily cases in recent weeks — showing an increase in the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate over the past two weeks — though not as steep as many other states.

Hospitalizations statewide have climbed back above 300, including 143 in intensive care, for the first time since late last month. Ehresmann said hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, causing Minnesota officials to expect that number to rise following an increase in cases in recent weeks.

“I think it’s just the ripple effect of the cases that we’ve been seeing earlier in the month and so that’s a concern,” Ehresmann said. “We started to see cases and we were still enjoying lower rates of hospitalizations and ICU use and so I think people thought that perhaps we shouldn’t be so concerned about the cases, but as we have feared we are seeing our hospitalizations begin to increase.”

Walz and other state officials toured Liberty Packaging in Brooklyn Park to promote the state’s plan to give away 4 million disposable masks to businesses and 300,000 cloth masks to at-risk communities across the state. That’s aimed at helping people comply with the statewide mask mandate Walz imposed last week. The governor said it will take a 90% to 95% compliance rate to be effective in reducing the infection rate.

The governor was due to announce guidance Thursday for schools to reopen this fall. Minneapolis Public Schools, the state’s third-largest district, announced late Tuesday that pupils there will be online-only when they return in September. But buildings would reopen for tutoring, technology and mental health support for students and families.