With the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz is extending the State of Emergency along with a record sixth special session. With winter approaching and more people being forced inside to socialize, Governor Walz is putting new measures in place for bars and restaurants across the state as well as for other social gatherings.

Recent data has shown that more cases of COVID-19 are from people being at bars late into the night. This seems obvious to me with people drinking, no masks on, and a tendency to become less cautious later at night, especially when alcohol is involved. Add to that the factor that some people tend to stay at bars for an extended amount of time versus other public places.

Research shows that people aged 18-35 have been at a lower risk to becoming severely ill from COVID-19, but have been a main source of spreading the virus at social gatherings. Some recent events that have cause for concern elsewhere in the country were this past weekend, with thousands of people crowded on city streets celebrating Joe Biden's election win and the Notre Dame Football game when fans stormed the field, which are being considered potential super-spreader events.

Looking at the data from local health officials, Governor Walz decided to implement a series of "surgical" measures to curb the spread of the virus in some key areas where spread is very common. Here are the new updates for each of these key areas:

Private Social Gatherings

One of the biggest points of spread identified by medical professionals is private social gatherings where people feel safer because they are with people they know. Even those not exhibiting symptoms may be contagious due to the capability for some to either be asymptomatic early in infection, or even through the entirety of their infection.

To curb the spread of the virus at private social gatherings, Governor Walz is implementing a 10-person limit for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. This should include people from no more than three different households, including the host.

This measure goes into effect at 10 pm on Friday, November 13.

Receptions, Funerals, Other Larger Organized Gatherings

New rules from Governor Walz and his health officials do not change any guidelines for actual wedding, funeral, or other organized ceremony. Changes are specifically targeted at receptions, celebrations, or other more social gathering aspects to these events.

There is a phased approach to size caps for these types of gatherings:

  • November 27: 50-peson limit
  • December 11: 25-person limit

These events also are not allowed between 10 pm and 4 am.

Bars & Restaurants

Capacity caps are to be 50% of fire code limits for indoor and outdoor settings at bars and restaurants, not to exceed 150 total people at a time. Counters are to be closed for seating service, unless it is a counter-only service establishment.

All patrons must be seated at tables and bar games that require standing, like pool or darts, are not allowed in order to limit movement around the establishment. No dine-in service will be allowed between 10 pm and 4 am. Businesses may stay open for delivery and take-out service, however.

This measure goes into effect at 10 pm on Friday, November 13.

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According to the Minnesota Department of Health, bars and restaurants have been linked to 117 COVID-19 outbreaks involving 7 or more people at a bar or restaurant and that was just in the month of October. Some businesses are upset with the move like Tony Chesak of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association:

Unfairly singling out every bar and every restaurant in Minnesota is not a scalpel — it's a hatchet targeting one of Minnesota's hardest hit industries this year. The Beverage Association represents bars, restaurants and liquor stores. The industry would need financial relief to counter the economic harm.

Governor Walz also announced today that he has proposed $10 million in additional funding to businesses that have already applied for relief who have been struggling due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This additional money will help 1,000 more businesses pay bills and their employees.

Health officials that joined Governor Walz also asked the public to continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid large crowds, and get tested if you have any reason to believe you may have been exposed. Walz mentioned that most Minnesotans are less than a 30-minute drive from a testing site, and testing is getting easier, with quicker turnaround times for results. If you find out you're positive, it is then important to isolate yourself and seek medical attention if needed.

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