MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Weeks after they went into effect, Minneapolis and St. Paul have officially lifted the COVID-19 vaccine or negative test requirements for city restaurants, bars and other public spaces.
"We are grateful to be in a different place now than we were when this requirement first took effect," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said. "While I encourage residents to continue to get vaccinated, wear masks, and practice social distancing while indoors, the sharp decline in cases and hospitalizations means we can safely lift the vaccine requirement in our city."
The mandates went into effect Jan. 19 as the omicron surge pushed the state of Minnesota to its highest-recorded positivity rates and tasked already strapped hospitals with a new wave of COVID-19 patients.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the end of the mandate Thursday morning, effective immediately.
"Key public health metrics are trending in the right direction," Frey said. "That is a welcomed sign for Minneapolis, especially for the small businesses and restaurants that have shouldered the weight of this pandemic. Let's hold the momentum and bring our city back in full by continuing to follow public health guidance and supporting local businesses."
The two cities' emergency regulations requiring the wearing of a mask in indoor public spaces, however, remain in effect.
The cities issued a joint statement, saying that local businesses who "wish to continue with their own vaccine or testing requirements may continue to do so."
There was certainly push back from some restaurants. WCCO spoke with the owner of Wild Greg's Saloon in Minneapolis, one of several businesses involved in asking for a temporary restraining order against the initiative in January. (A judge denied that.) The owner said he is very happy with this news and that their businesses had seen a 30% drop.
Tony Perella, the director of operations at Can Can Wonderland (which is not affiliated with the aforementioned lawsuit), said their customers have been very accommodating with the mandates and all of the changes the last two years. He says they get maybe a handful of people each week usually from out of town that didn't know about the mandates. He said they will discuss internally to now decide their next steps.
"It's been a lot of twists and turns as we move on, but the safety of our staff and our guests are of most importance, and we do have a lot of dialogue with our team to see where they're the most comfortable, because that's going to give the best customer service," Perella said.
Even as the cities drops mandates, private businesses can still decide their own rules, if any.
Latest COVID-19 Stats In Minnesota
The state's rolling average COVID-19 positivity rate is continuing its downward trend after reaching a record peak of nearly 24% late last month, now registering at 13.6% according to the latest figures from the Minnesota Department of Health.
The rate of new daily cases per 100,000 residents stands at 72.7, significantly down from the recent peak of nearly 230.
Meanwhile, Minnesota officials on Tuesday reported 11,761 new cases and 39 more deaths due to COVID-19.
The latest figures from the Minnesota Department of Health place the total case count at 1,383,555, which includes 55,141 reinfections.
Since the start of the pandemic, 11,761 Minnesotans have died from the virus.
There have now been 58,887 hospitalizations for COVID-19, according to the latest figures, 10,964 of which were ICU hospitalizations.
As of the latest reports, there were more than 50 staffed intensive care unit beds for adults available across the entire state, with 162 ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, along with 927 non-ICU beds. Only 23 staffed pediatric ICU beds are available.
A total of 9,303,485 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, including about 2.09 million boosters. Of the state's 5 and older population, 74.1% have received at least one shot.
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