Minneapolis and St. Paul have ended their respective vaccine-or-test mandates, put in place in January as COVID-19 was surging on the back of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Thursday simultaneously announced the decision to end the mandates — effective immediately. The rules prevented bars and restaurants from allowing customers who weren't vaccinated or able to show proof of a negative test no more than 72 hours old to dine inside.
"Case rates in Minneapolis have been dropping rapidly and steadily with a current seven-day new case rate of 499 per 100,000 people and positivity rates below the high-risk threshold," the joint announcement reads. "When the emergency regulation went into effect, the seven-day new case rate exceeded 1,300 cases per 100,000 people and positivity rates were increasing rapidly."
The Twin Cities' vaccine-or-test rule for dining went into effect on Jan. 19. The City of St. Paul's vax-or-test mandate was set to expire after 40 days, which means it is ending before its automatic Feb. 28 expiration date.
On Wednesday, Frey's office confirmed to Bring Me The News that the mayor was hoping to lift the mandate "as soon as evidence supports the decision."
In a statement Thursday, Frey said “Key public health metrics are trending in the right direction," adding: "That is a welcomed sign for Minneapolis, especially for the small businesses and restaurants that have shouldered the weight of this pandemic."
Mayor Carter said "the sharp decline in cases and hospitalizations means we can safely lift the vaccine requirement in our city.”
Both Minneapolis and St. Paul will continue requiring mask-wearing while at indoor public places. Businesses still have the option to impose their own vaccine requirements.
The Minnesota Department of Health's COVID-19 update on Wednesday showed 3,833 newly reported cases and 40 newly reported deaths. The state's seven-day test positivity rate average was 14.3% through Feb. 1, but this is down from the high of more than 23% seen during the peak of the omicron surge in January.