Minneapolis, St. Paul Lift Vaccine-or-Test Requirement for Restaurants, Bars

Minneapolis, St. Paul Lift Vaccine-or-Test Requirement for Restaurants, Bars

A nurse prepares to administer a Covid vaccine booster at the North Oakland Health Center in Pontiac, Mich., December 21, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul on Thursday rescinded their vaccine-or-test requirements for restaurants and bars as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen.

The rule, first instituted on January 19 as the state recorded its highest positivity rates since the pandemic began, required residents in the twin cities to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test from within the past three days to enter restaurants or bars.

The decision to lift the requirement came even after a Hennepin County judge upheld the rule when it was challenged by a group of Minneapolis bars and restaurants. Judge Laurie J. Miller ruled that the city cannot be held responsible for pandemic-related business loss.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said of the decision: “We are grateful to be in a different place now than we were when this requirement first took effect. While I encourage residents to continue to get vaccinated, wear masks, and practice social distancing while indoors, the sharp decline in cases and hospitalizations means we can safely lift the vaccine requirement in our city.”

Minneapolis interim health commissioner Heidi Ritchie told the Star Tribune on Thursday that the city always aims to “try and be as least invasive as possible when we’re coming from a public health perspective.” 

“We felt like in the areas where there were people who were eating and drinking and they couldn’t feasibly wear a mask, that vaccination was really the best way to keep everybody safe,” Ritchie said. “At this point with the transmission rates dropping the way that they are, the hospitalization rates not as precarious as they were, we’re comfortable pulling that more invasive regulation backwards.”

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey announced the decision on Thursday saying key public health metrics are “trending in the right direction.”

The state’s rolling average Covid-19 positivity rate has continued to trend downward after hitting a high of 24 percent late last month. The positivity rate has since fallen to 13.6, according to the latest figures from the Minnesota Department of Health.

“That is a welcomed sign for Minneapolis, especially for the small businesses and restaurants that have shouldered the weight of this pandemic,” Frey said. “Let’s hold the momentum and bring our city back in full by continuing to follow public health guidance and supporting local businesses.”

However, the cities will continue to require masks in indoor public spaces and said that local businesses who “wish to continue with their own vaccine or testing requirements may continue to do so.”

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