Three arts organizations in central Minnesota are instituting new vaccination and test policies for shows, as COVID cases in the region surge.

A collective comprising the St. Cloud Symphony OrchestraCSB/SJU Fine Arts, and Paramount Center for the Arts will require event attendees 12 and up to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within the prior 72 hours. The organizations will continue to require people wear well-fitting face masks while indoors. 

"The arts were one of the first industries to be significantly disrupted by the pandemic and that remains a primary challenge," the group wrote in its announcement. "However, given the very nature of how we gather to create and experience live performance, we have an obligation to continue to do our part in keeping our community safe and our doors open."

Related: As COVID cases continue to rise, greater Minnesota is getting hit hardest

The new policy will go into effect at different times. The symphony began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test on Oct. 1. The rules at CSB/SJU start Oct. 1, while the Paramount Center is giving people until Nov. 1.

It has predominantly been Twin Cities venues that have implemented vaccine or negative test requirements in recent months.

In explaining its decision, the arts collective cited the "rapid spread of COVID-19, particularly in our tri-county area." It's a trend seen throughout greater Minnesota, with more than six in every 10 new cases of late coming from outside the seven-county metro.

Stearns County, for example, recorded 152 positive infections Monday among its population of 161,000. It also has a 12-plus vaccination rate of 54.8%. Six counties just north and east of Stearns, stretching to the border, are below 50%

Compare that to Washington County, which has 262,000 residents and recorded 98 cases, and has a 12-plus vaccination rate of 80.1%. Or Ramsey County, and its 179 new cases among more than half a million people.

In recent weeks, CentraCare had to reinstitute visitor restrictions at its hospitals due to the sheer number of COVID cases in the communities they serve. On Monday, just 10 staffed ICU beds in central Minnesota were available.

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