Minnesota Closing Bars, Restaurants, Gyms, Prohibiting Social Gatherings In Response To COVID-19 Surge
While there was a pretty good indication Wednesday morning of what would come as part of an announcement later in the day regarding new policies to slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to surge, we now have the full emergency executive order from the Governor's office.
The order, which goes into effect at 11:59 pm on Friday, November 20, will place a pretty extensive set of new policies in place through at least Friday, December 18, 2020 at 11:59 pm.
The 23-page executive order details a large amount of information that includes the ongoing mask mandate and other long-standing preventative measures, but key new items in the order are regarding the operation of dine-in service at bars and restaurants, gyms and fitness facilities, and social gatherings. The last of these is of particular interest just a week before Thanksgiving as families consider their holiday gathering plans.
While you can see the entire emergency executive order here, these are the details you need to know that go into effect at the end of the day on Friday the 20th broken down by category:
Private Social Gatherings
The order explicitly prohibits social gatherings of any size within the state between 11:59 pm on November 20 through 11:59 pm on December 18 except a specific list of approved items. This prohibition of social gatherings would include a ban on Thanksgiving gatherings that involve people other than those you live with.
Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan offered the following comment regarding the ban on holiday gatherings, saying:
I know the upcoming holidays make it incredibly difficult to stay home and stay apart, but this is how we keep the people we love safe and healthy. Take it from me, no celebration is worth an empty seat that will never be filled. This dial back will help us do everything we can to make sure our tables are full next year.
Things permitted under the new executive order include things like workers or customers in a business allowed to be open under the new executive order, educational and care services, care of others, health and safety activities including sobriety and mental health support groups, health care and residential facilities, government meetings, drive-in gatherings so long as participants remain in their own vehicles, and weddings/funerals/services.
On the note of the last point, the order states: Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding ceremonies, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies are strongly encouraged to offer virtual alternatives to the maximum extent possible. Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding services, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies, may host such wedding ceremonies, funeral services, or other services, provided that they adhere to requirements detailed in the executive order.
Those requirements include things like minimum 6-foot physical distancing, indoor occupancy not to exceed 50% of building capacity or 250 people (whichever is less), and outdoor gatherings not to exceed 250 people.
Celebrations and receptions related to the above-mentioned ceremonies or other things like birthday parties, retirement celebrations, family reunions, and other such gatherings are not allowed during the executive order period.
Bars, Restaurants, Entertainment Venues
When the order goes into effect at 11:59 pm on Friday, November 20, all bars and restaurants are to cease in-person service, moving to delivery and take-out only until the end of the order, in place to end at 11:59 pm on Friday, December 18.
Venues like bowling alleys, movie theaters, and other indoor entertainment businesses will also be closed.
As mentioned under social gatherings, drive-in events like Bentleyville will not be impacted by this executive order, as all participants are to stay in their vehicle.
A number of other business types, including barber shops, salons, retail businesses, dental offices, child care facilities will be able to remain open and elective medical procedures will be permitted to continue. Of note, personal care businesses like salons and barber shops must not exceed 50% capacity during operation.
Outdoor recreation facilities including state parks and trails, public and private campgrounds, charter boats/launches, and personal care services like barber shops and salons may remain open so long as they abide by current regulations.
Organized Youth & Adult Sports
Organized youth and adult sports are to stop all in-person activities, which includes practices, group workouts, games, and tournaments. Excluded from this order are things like physical education instruction as part of academic requirements, professional sports, and collegiate athletics.
The executive order lays out the following:
- An individual who willfully violates this Executive Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.
- Any business owner, manager, or supervisor who requires or encourages any of their employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, or interns to violate this Executive Order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $3,000 or by imprisonment for not more than a year.
- In addition to those criminal penalties, the Attorney General, as well as city and county attorneys, may investigate and seek any civil relief available pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2020, section 8.31, for violations or threatened violations of this Executive Order, including but not limited to injunctive relief, civil penalties in an amount to be determined by the court, up to $25,000 per occurrence, costs of investigation and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and other equitable relief as determined by the court in accordance with section 8.31.
- State and local licensing and regulatory entities that inspect businesses for compliance with rules and codes to protect the public are encouraged to assess regulated businesses’ compliance with this Executive Order and use existing enforcement tools to bring businesses into compliance.
A few other notes from the order include:
Outdoor activities where you come into close personal contact with others are discouraged, unnecessary travel is discouraged, and persons arriving in Minnesota from other states or countries, including Minnesota residents, are told to self-quarantine for 14 days before interacting with others outside of your immediate household.
In short, what is allowed and what is not allowed is illustrated in the "dial back" graphic provided by the Governor.
Motivation for the executive order is due to the rapid uptick in cases across the state, which is leading to a strain on the medical system in the state. Images from Governor Walz illustrate the rapid uptick and the number of critical care beds occupied across the state, which not only impacts COVID patients, but also those suffering from other unforeseen medical emergencies like heart attacks that require critical care.
Of note, our region's critical care beds is 93% full already, with only 7 beds available as of the time of this post on November 18. With the continuing upward trend in COVID cases, this will only continue to strain the local medical system.