Updated: September 09, 2020 01:51 PM
Created: September 09, 2020 12:44 PM
State officials say most bars and restaurants in the state are complying with state health guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19, following a round of compliance checks.
The Minnesota Department of Health said teams from the Minnesota Public Safety, Health, Labor and Agriculture departments visited more than 150 bars and restaurants across several communities over the past two weekends. During those visits, officials found most were doing their best to reduce the virus's spread and keep Minnesotans safe.
The visits were conducted in Mankato, St. Peter, Waseca, Faribault and New Ulm on Aug. 28-29 and in Carver and Scott counties on Sept. 4-5.
MDH said, of the 167 businesses the teams visited:
Of those 79 not in compliance, MDH said 31 were referred for follow-up inspections by the health and labor departments for issues like customers and workers not wearing masks, social distancing not maintained and a lack of COVID-19 preparedness plans or worker training.
"We applaud the efforts of the many establishments and customers doing the right things and protecting workers and the public," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. "We know the past six months have been tough for Minnesota’s bars and restaurants and we also know that if proper precautions are not followed in these settings, the result can be accelerated spread of COVID-19 in the community. These enforcement efforts are aimed at ensuring that the minority of businesses that are not following the guidelines bring their establishments into compliance."
MDH said it has received more than 800 complaints of violations at bars and restaurants and more than 400 complaints have been delegated to the proper agencies since July 13.
A total of 50 bars and restaurants had met the MDH definition of a COVID-19 outbreak by the end of August, according to MDH.
When bars and restaurants aren't in compliance with health and safety guidelines, officials first work to educate them and bring them into compliance before elevating enforcement action, if necessary.
MDH noted that customers also share responsibility in keeping businesses open by following the guidance requirements themselves. Customers who refuse to wear masks and don't follow social distancing guidelines jeopardize the health of other customers and staff in addition to the operations of the business.
"Limiting the spread of disease will keep our businesses open and gives workers the confidence they need that they’re working in a safe environment," said Minnesota Labor and Industry Temporary Commissioner Roslyn Robertson. "COVID-19 can spread easily in bars and restaurants, if the proper precautions are not followed. An outbreak in one bar can lead to a community outbreak through the spread from patrons to their household members, co-workers, and other members of the community."
"Keeping bars and restaurants open is critical to our state’s economy. We need everyone to follow the guidelines to ensure we slow the spread of COVID-19 so that these businesses can continue to operate," Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen added.
MDH has a customer checklist posted online so customers know what to look for when evaluating businesses' efforts to follow the guidelines. For information on COVID-19 guidance and compliance assitance, you can contact the appropriate state agency for visit MDH's website.
MDH said some neighboring states have more restrictions for businesses in place but Minnesota is focused more on enforcement efforts to help ensure businesses don't lose more income. However, that means everyone also has to continue following health guidelines or an outbreak could force stricter measures.
"Requiring the right actions of everyone will help ensure a level playing field for businesses and will help keep bars and restaurants open in Minnesota. It will also keep our economy moving in the right direction and slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state," said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.
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