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Omicron Surge Has Businesses, Churches Making Changes To Stay COVID Safe

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Omicron is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Minnesota. As of last week, it only made up about 20% of cases in the state.

From his own COVID-19 quarantine Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz said he has no plans for another statewide mask mandate. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for Pfizer's pill to treat severe cases of the virus.

Businesses and public gathering spots are reacting to the surge. With no mandates being enacted, it's up to them to decide if changes are needed.

A handful of Minneapolis restaurants have reignited their fire pits and heaters to keep patio season going as long as possible, while others have needed to take it a step further for safety reasons.

Winter isn't the most ideal time to host a church service outside, but Pastor Josh Nelson wants to make sure everyone feels safe at Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Chanhassen. One of its four Christmas Eve services will be outdoors.

"We wanted one of them to especially be helpful to those who feel the need to keep a social distance or are not yet ready to come inside a building with a crowd," Nelson said.

There will be a couple of fire pits outside to help keep parishioners warm. The three other indoor services that day should allow for a more spacious seating arrangement.

"We'll also provide a live stream so those that feel the need to stay home can still be part of our worship," Nelson said.

Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Chanhassen
(credit: CBS)

Staying COVID safe is why Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub in Minneapolis won't have drinks flowing for several days.

"It's always really frustrating to be closed down for some of the busiest days of the year, but safety first," said owner Jamie Robinson.

Three employees recently tested positive for COVID-19. While other staff have tested negative, he feels closing until next Monday is best. The brewery is normally only closed on Christmas.

"We just are doing this out of an abundance of caution because we don't want somebody to bring it home to their family for these family gatherings over the holiday," Robinson said.

A trip to the theater over the holiday is still an option. The Hennepin Theatre Trust has been requiring vaccination cards or a negative test, as well as masking. That policy was supposed to last until the end of the year -- but will now continue until further notice.

Over in St. Paul, the SteppingStone Theatre has decided to postpone its production of "The Snowy Day" until next winter. That's because much of its audience is school-aged children, and they want to make sure that the community stays safe in the weeks ahead, saying in part on its website:

Historically, a large portion of SteppingStone's school audience comes from communities that have been hard hit by COVID and that remain at high risk. Schools and families are grappling with restrictions on field trips, difficult access to buses, and the uncertainty stemming from the possibility of another wave of COVID. Given these obstacles, postponing the production to a time when all young people can return to the theatre with a spirit of wonder and togetherness is the best thing that SteppingStone can do for them.

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