Four bars – two in Mankato and two in Minneapolis – have been identified by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) as sites of recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
In Mankato, Rounders Sports Bar & Grill and The 507 are linked to more than 100 cases from crowds gathering June 12-13, while The Kollege Klub and Cowboy Jacks in Minneapolis have been connected to 30 cases between June 14-21.
"Definitely people have identified or mentioned being other places, but those really were the focal points where we saw a lot of disease activity associated with people who have been to those locations," said Kris Ehresman, epidemiologist and director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the MDH.
The outbreaks have come in the first two weeks of Minnesota bars and restaurants being allowed to serve customers at a 50 percent capacity after being banned from doing so for nearly three months by the governor's stay-at-home orders.
The cases linked to bars reopening coincides with Minnesotans aged in their 20s surpassing people in their 30s as the age group that has tested positive the most. More than 7,000 people in their 20s make up 20 percent of all laboratory-confirmed cases in Minnesota, and as MPR's David Montgomery points out, that age group has seen a significant spike in the past 10 days.
"We desperately need younger Minnesotans to take COVID and COVID precautions seriously," said Ehresmann. In the same vein, bars and restaurants are encouraged to heed the guidance issued by health leaders, which demands opening at no greater than 50% capacity, keeping patrons seated and maintaining social distancing.
"In the case of these establishments, that guidance very likely wasn't followed," said Ehresman, with Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm adding that photos on social media made it clear that "they were indeed pretty crowded environments."
Just two of Minnesota's 1,411 COVID-19 deaths have been people younger than 30, but health leaders are more concerned about vulnerable people that the younger population could infect.