ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday, June 26, named four bars as among the sources of at least 30 new COVID-19 diagnoses out of a recent surge of over 100 cases affecting young people.
The bars are Rounders Sports Bar & Grill and The 507 in Mankato, and Minneapolis, Kollege Klub in Dinkytown and Cowboy Jack's downtown.
The Mankato exposures took place during the weekend of June 12-13, while the Dinkytown exposures occurred during the week of June 14-21, and officials encouraged anyone with symptoms who frequented these establishments to seek medical evaluation.
Health officials added that many of the affected adults in the Mankato area worked in childcare facilities.
"These contacts now mean that these (childcare) facilities have to take precautionary measures that will mean hassles for the children and the parents of those children," said Minnesota Department of Health Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann. "It's a sad example of how COVID-19 works. Just because you feel you're not at risk, that doesn't mean you can't get COVID-19 and spread it to others."
Malcolm and Ehresmann characterized the bars as having served customers in closer contact than is allowed under current recommendations. Current restrictions limit the capacity of indoor dining establishments to 50% capacity.
"Certainly there was a lot of social media, photos and so forth showing that indeed they were pretty crowded environments," said state Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.
"Absolutely," said Ehresmann. "The guidance we've provided for bars and restaurants is that people need to be seated and to socially distance and that's really important. I think in the case of these establishments, that guidance very likely was not being followed."
Health officials deferred on the question of whether the restaurants would be penalized, but said they had been in contact with inspection officials and framed the issue as one of education. They also noted that the public has a mechanism to report establishments that flaunt the capacity ordinances.
"When folks register concerns with the public safety duty officer those get referred to local law enforcement," Malcolm said. "The goal really has been education first and foremost -- making sure that proprietors and patrons know what the rules are. This is so important to get right, so we're talking about how we can strengthen that communication over the coming days and holiday week."
"Younger populations tend to have better outcomes from COVID-19," Ehresmann said. "What we're concerned about is subsequent spread to individuals who do have underlying conditions, are are at greater risk, and that will have an impact of the healthcare system...It's not that you can't socialize and you can't have fun, but you need to do it in a manner that's safe for you and the people around you."
In all, the state reported 498 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with cases spread across 48 counties.
Blue Earth County, home to Mankato, reported 33 cases and a spike continued in Mower County, home to Austin, reported 20 cases. Dakota County saw rising numbers of new cases as well, reporting 50 new patients with COVID-19.
The state reported 14,560 tests and five deaths from COVID-19. One of the deaths was recorded in Dakota County, four in Hennepin County, and all were among residents of long-term care. The state has now lost 1,411 lives to the illness.
Though the positive case numbers reported Friday are trending upward, the state health systems continue to test greater numbers of Minnesotans, keeping the closely-monitored metric known as the "case positivity rate" modest. On a seven-day rolling average, currently just 3% of the tests taken within the state are coming back positive.
That's well below the 15% threshold listed as one of the state's five so-called Dial Back Dashboard Indicators consulted to reopen activity in the state.
Currently, four of the health department's five severity indicators fall outside of the health department's stated zone of concern, with the fifth and final indicator inching very close to the safety zone.
As of June 17, the state was recording 4.9 hospital admissions for COVID-19 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day rolling average. That's down from a high of 11 per 100,000 on May 21, and the indicator is moving close to 4 cases per 100,000, a safety target.
ICU use for COVID-19 dropped by five beds to 157 on Friday, and non-ICU hospitalizations for the illness rose by four beds to 178 patients.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.