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Walz says closing restaurants and bars ‘may become an option’ for coronavirus

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday said it’s possible he might order bars and restaurants to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

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The dining room at W.A. Frost in St. Paul, pictured a few days before distancing measures were implemented on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Jess Fleming / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday, March 15, said it’s possible he might order bars and restaurants to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

"I have to be candid," Walz said Sunday when asked, "that may become an option. … We are thinking about that."

The once-unthinkable notion has become a reality in France and is being increasingly discussed in America as cases continue to spread beyond the ability of society to contain it.

On Saturday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was "seriously looking" at the idea following reports of St. Patrick’s Day-inspired pre-revelers not following social distancing guidelines.

Some have suggested that young adults might be under a false sense of security from the COVID-19 illness, given the emphasis on the risks to older adults. However, young adults are spreaders of the coronavirus, and become ill. Of the 14 new cases announced Sunday in Minnesota, four were in their 20s and two more were 31 years old.

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As of Sunday, however, restaurants in the Twin Cities were open and health experts gave the green light for patrons — with some important guidelines.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Sunday the community-level strategies to help slow the spread of coronavirus are still in place, including social distancing of 6 feet per person.

"For those of us who are frequenting bars and restaurants, it’s really important to monitor our own behavior to try to achieve social distancing in those places that are open — and we want them to remain open as long as possible — but to do that in a way that is mindful of the importance of social distancing, even in those venues," Malcolm said.

Restaurants and bars prepare

Some Twin Cities venues are already girding for a dearth of customers, if not closure of their public spaces.

A number of restaurants last week began to space out their tables and remove high-touch items.

Hyacinth on Grand Avenue has gone to take-out only. Beirut in West St. Paul will offer delivery on their own terms starting soon. And Buca di Beppo announced free delivery of "meals sealed for safety."

Jess Fleming and Mara H. Gottfried contributed to this report.

As a public service, we have opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

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