Minneapolis and St. Paul will require proof of vaccination to enter bars and restaurants

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Minneapolis and St. Paul will require customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues, among the most aggressive measures the Twin Cities have taken in this regard. day to curb the spread of COVID-19, the mayors of the two cities said on Wednesday.

The action comes as authorities try to temper a spike in infections and hospitalizations fueled by the rapidly spreading omicron variant, which is already causing staff shortages in all sectors.

“This is an essential next step to avoid closures,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a virtual press conference. “We want to stay open and we have to stay safer.”

The new restrictions – which will apply to businesses where food or beverages are sold for consumption on-site – will take effect for most businesses on January 19. Customers can provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed under medical supervision within the past 72 hours. Booster injections are not necessary.

The requirement would apply to stadiums, cinemas, bowling alleys, convention centers and other venues that serve food or drink. St. Paul’s mandate will only apply to businesses licensed by the city.

“We expect the vast majority of businesses to comply, participate and see this as an opportunity to keep their business open, keep their employees at work, and move our entire community forward together,” the Mayor of St. Paul Melvin Carter said at the press conference.

The measures were announced a week after the two mayors reinstated indoor mask mandates.

State officials said late last week that the omicron variant now accounts for about 68% of cases in Minnesota. Minneapolis officials said in a press release Friday that the community transmission rate now exceeds 900 cases per 100,000 people, placing the city in “the high-risk area” according to criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are following in the footsteps of U.S. cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, as well as several countries that put in place similar restrictions this summer in an attempt to raise rates vaccination and prevent the spread of the virus. In the United States, policies have been most popular in large cities ruled by Democrats.

Policies vary. Many cities have also extended the requirements to gyms, theaters or sports venues. Some cities only accept proof of a vaccination, while others allow people to show a negative COVID-19 test instead. Some cities, like New York and Los Angeles, have had requirements for weeks or months; others, like Chicago and Philadelphia, are rolling out policies.

In places where there are requirements, the application has been uneven, according to an Associated Press report. The report found that some places waved people in if they presented a vaccination card, while others strictly inspected it and cross-checked people’s identity cards. Some cities have focused their efforts on facilities, fining them if they repeatedly fail to check clients’ immunization status.

In a medical journal article published last month, researchers at the University of Oxford studied vaccine certification programs in Denmark, Israel, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland and concluded that such regulations are leading to increased vaccinations, especially among younger populations.

However, the vaccine passes were not a panacea. The researchers wrote that some ethnic minority groups and lower socio-economic groups have avoided getting vaccinated due to a lack of trust in authorities and may be better served by targeted vaccination campaigns and educational outreach.

Mary Oo and Kaw Ku lined up for a COVID-19 test at St. Paul’s RiverCentre late last week after learning they had been exposed to the virus while on a vacation trip to the East Coast. The young couple got a taste of New York’s vaccine passport program while dining with friends in the city and said they would like to see a similar policy in Minnesota.

Oo, 28, said she knew many members of the Karen community in St. Paul who still had reservations about the possibility of getting the vaccine. “Maybe that would give them the impetus to get vaccinated,” she said.

Many residents said a vaccine certification program would not affect their work or play, as they received their doses months ago. More than three-quarters of Twin Cities residents over the age of five have been vaccinated, according to data from Minneapolis and Ramsey County.

Sam Turner said he recently closed indoor restaurants and temporarily switched to delivery and pickup for his Nicollet Diner in Minneapolis after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. He said on Wednesday he supported the new requirement.

“It reduces the burden on the restaurant, because I know that like us and other restaurateurs, they would like to put on warrants, but it’s like suicide on social media,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier for us. You don’t have to look like the bad guy.”

Protests, strikes and lawsuits have erupted in the United States and elsewhere as a growing number of employers demanded workers show proof of vaccination. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said last year he had no plans to adopt a statewide vaccination passport system, although state employees must be vaccinated or tested weekly.

After Carter announced a stricter vaccine mandate for city workers in the fall, three unions filed a lawsuit asking for a regular testing option. A judge has ordered the city to suspend execution of the warrant, which was due to go into effect on December 31, while litigation continues.

A small number of restaurants and some venues, including First Avenue and the Guthrie Theater, have already required proof of vaccine or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

This is breaking news. To verify startribune.com for updates.

Editor Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.

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