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Diners in Minneapolis and St. Paul will soon have to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative COVID test in order to eat at the cities' food and drink establishments.

The mayors of both cities, during a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, announced the new protocols, which will apply to restaurants and any other indoor establishments where food or drink is served.

The requirements, which the mayors emphasized are temporary, will go into effect on Jan. 19. Organizers of ticketed events will have until Jan. 26 to implement the new requirements. There is not a built-in expiration date for these measures in Minneapolis, but the St. Paul policy would end in 40 days without additional action.

In Minneapolis, the new requirement applies to everyone that can be vaccinated, meaning age 5 and up. A negative test will be needed for children ages 2-4. Anyone under 2 years old is exempt.

In St. Paul, all children under 5 years old are exempt from the requirement. 

"I can't emphasize this enough, this is a critical next step to avoid closure," said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, citing the COVID surge that is overwhelming testing sites and hospitals in the Twin Cities.

Indoor diners will have a choice of showing one of two things: 

  • Proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning it's been two weeks since receiving the final dose of a vaccine series (so booster not required); or 
  • Proof of a negative PCR or antigen COVID-19 lab test from within the past 72 hours — one that is medically supervised, not an at-home test.

This rule does not apply solely to restaurants. Erik Hansen, director of economic policy and development for the City of Minneapolis, said any establishment that serves food or drink indoors will be subject to the proof of vaccination or negative test mandate.

That includes:

  • Indoor restaurants
  • Coffee shops
  • Cafes
  • Bars
  • Sports venues (such as Target Center, Xcel Energy Center)
  • Theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Convention centers
  • Catering halls

Other spaces will be exempt, such as retail or grocery settings, schools, hospitals, congregate care facilities, or public areas not connected to a restaurant or bar but where people happen to be eating or drinking (such as the skyway systems).

The requirements also will not apply to takeout orders.

Carter called the requirements "a tool no one ever wants to have to use," but said the "staggering increases" in case counts and ongoing concerns among health care professionals meant such a move was necessary.

"Only by working together can we hall help prevent the spread of COVID, conquer this together, and keep our economy moving forward together," Carter said. 

Establishments that don't follow the new requirements could face some sort of enforcement action, though Frey and Hansen insisted they'll look to work with  offending venues before taking other measures. Enforcement will generally be done via complaints made to 311, they said. 

"I think it's important to note too though, these requirements are built just as much to protect those same businesses that we're talking about right now, many of whom are trying to figure out how they make it through another spike," Carter said, noting everyone has to "chip in and do their part" to avoid something like a shutdown.

Frey also argued the rules provide a great opportunity for people to dine out "while being a whole lot safer."

"So you can go out to eat knowing the people around you have been vaccinated or have received a negative test within the last few days," he said. 

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Last week, both cities brought back public face mask mandates for many indoor areas where people congregate, citing the quick spread of the omicron variant. The next day, the Minnesota Medical Association urged other cities to also issue public face mask mandates because "wearing well-fitted masks is a valuable strategy in our ongoing fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the highly contagious omicron variant."

Minnetonka is reportedly considering a citywide mask mandate, Duluth and Edina recently rejected such a measure, Golden Valley and Hopkins approved their own mandates, while Bloomington decided only to "encourage" mask wearing.

Gov. Tim Walz has said he's not going to issue a statewide mask mandate at this time because he doesn't believe enough people will follow it to make a difference.

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