If you’re heading to an indoor sports game or a restaurant in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you’ll soon need to bring your COVID-19 vaccine card or a negative test taken within 72 hours. Establishments serving food and drink indoors in the Twin Cities, including bars, restaurants, theatres, sports and entertainment venues, bowling alleys and convention centers, will be required to require a proof of vaccination or negative tests, in order to slow the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced the new measures at a press conference Wednesday. The temporary mandates come into effect from January 19. There is no end date for Minneapolis at this time, and St. Paul’s policy will be reviewed in 40 days.
“The spike in COVID cases in our city is causing buildups at testing sites and overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare workers, and the data is overwhelmingly clear that more is needed to keep our city safe while we face this highly contagious variant,” Mayor Frey said. “To reiterate: This policy is temporary, but in the meantime, I recognize that it actually adds another level of responsibility for our local businesses and restaurants who have borne the brunt of the challenges we have faced through this pandemic. And I I can’t stress this enough: this is a crucial next step in avoiding closures. We want to stay open and we need to stay safer.”
More than 75% of Twin Cities residents over the age of 5 are already vaccinated. For people who have not been vaccinated, policies will require verifiable PCR and antigen lab testing. The results of the rapid home test kit are insufficient. Physical vaccine cards, a photo of a vaccine card, the record app, or other third-party apps that store vaccine records are all acceptable forms of proof.
“We are not powerless in the face of the continued impacts of COVID-19,” Mayor Carter said. “Together we can help prevent the spread and ensure that we can all be part of the response solution to reclaim those aspirations we have for our community. This requires all of us to do our part.”
St. Paul’s ordinance exempts children under five. In Minneapolis, the requirements extend to anyone who can be vaccinated, which currently means anyone who is at least 5 years old. A negative test will be required for children between the ages of 2 and 4, and those under 2 are exempt. Temporary warrants do not apply to retail and grocery stores, schools, hospitals, retirement homes or skyways.
“Minneapolis is only back to about half of seated diners from pre-pandemic levels after more than 1,700 businesses had to close in 2020,” the economic policy and development director said. Erik Hansen, in a statement. “We have to learn how to operate during the pandemic. This regulation helps protect the health of business owners, workers and customers while keeping restaurants and other places that serve food and drink open across our city.
US cities that currently require proof of vaccination to dine indoors include New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Several restaurants, theaters and venues in the Twin Cities already require proof of a vaccine or a negative test.
“Our community transmission rate now exceeds 1,300 people infected per 100,000,” Acting Health Commissioner Heidi Ritchie said in a statement. “This contrasts with a rate of just over 300 cases per 100,000 in mid-December. The high transmissibility of the omicron variant has led to record case rates, increased hospitalizations and a health system crisis. Today’s announcement is another step towards building an immunity wall in our city.
Last week, Minneapolis and St. Paul reinstated mask mandates for public indoor spaces. Governor Tim Walz said he would not issue a statewide mask mandate and said last year he had no plans to launch a vaccine passport system for Minnesota.