9-9 COVID-19 Update from MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 9-9-2020
The Minnesota Department of Health will hold a 2 p.m. conference call Wednesday to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19.
MDH Director of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann:
- Globally, 27.6 million cases worldwide since start of pandemic; 898,000 deaths
- In U.S., 6.3 million cases since pandemic began, 189,000 deaths
- In Minnesota, 81,868 cumulative cases (up 282 cases)
- Of the 81,600 total cases, 75,055 (92%) have recovered and no longer need isolation
- 7-day positivity rate has risen to 5.5% (prior week 5.3%)
- In Minnesota, 1,869 deaths (up 7 deaths); 4 of the deaths in long-term care facilities.
- Hospitalized in MN as of today: 263; Hospitalized in MN ICUs as of today: 137
- Hospitalizations have been gradually declining over past month
- Indoor mask requirement applies to small businesses too, “whether they employ 3 people or 3,000.”
MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff:
- “Keeping bars and restaurants open is important to our economy, but to do that, we need to know that they are safe for customers and for employees.” “A handful of bad actors can create a ripple effect and impact the entire industry.”
- Compliance teams conducted checks in Mankato, St. Peter, Waseca, Faribault, and New Ulm on August 28 and 29; and Carver and Scott counties September 4 and 5. Out of 167 establishments visited:
- These locations chosen on a variety of factors, include college locations and complaints.
- 88 establishments were observed following the safety and health requirements.
- 79 bars and restaurants were not in compliance, with one or more minor violations.
- Of those not in compliance, 31 bars and restaurants were referred for follow-up inspections by MDH and DLI for issues such as customers and workers not wearing masks when required, failure to maintain social distancing, and a lack of COVID-19 Preparedness Plans and worker training.
- MDH has received more than 800 complaints of executive order violations at restaurants and bars regulated by MDH since July 13 (when mask mandate went into effect).
- MDH has referred more than 400 complaints to delegated agencies.
- MDH investigated 68 case clusters of patrons visiting 66 different bars and restaurants.
- 38 of these met the definition of an outbreak.
- Led to 1,210 people infected with COVID-19
- Identified another 58 outbreaks involving employees at bars and restaurants.
- Acknowledges these cases only represent a fraction of the thousands of bars and restaurants.
DPS Assistant Commissioner Booker Hodges:
- Oversees alcohol and gambling enforcement
- After 3 months of education efforts, strategy has “unfortunately” shifted to enforcement
- “Our goal isn’t to hammer people,” but to “ensure a level playing field.”
DLI Assistant Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach:
- “Compliance checks and this increased enforcement effort aren’t just about keeping customers safe, they’re about keeping workers safe.”
- OSHA continues to follow up on complaints from workers not feeling safe with COVID-19 guidance
- Recognizes “customers aren’t always doing their part” by not wearing masks when entering and walking through bars and restaurants, and ignoring social distancing guidelines by moving around tables and chairs.
MDA Food Inspection Supervisor Katherine Simon:
- Capacity must be at no more than 50% or no more than 250 people at any establishment
Brent Frederick, owner of Jester Concepts (Borough, Parlour, Hotel Ivy locations)
- 3 locations in Minneapolis, 1 in St. Paul
- Sales volume 40% of pre-COVID overall. (some 70%, some 20-30%)
- Retained 75% of hourly employees compared to pre-COVID
- Had to cut lunch at some locations due to lower volume
- Enforcing mask use was tough until state mandate.
- Investing in HVAC units to purify the air, one way to keep guests and employees safe
Q&A Session and Notes:
- Ehresmann: Some of the individuals in cluster outbreak work in health care and education
- Do we know enough about aeresolized spread of virus? Ehresmann: close, crowded situations indoors contribute more to spread of COVID. Better air flow makes a difference, she said.
- Concern about students bringing COVID with them to campus? Ehresmann: As you look at transmission of COVID at colleges, you may think it’s necessary to shut down campuses, but while you may reduce spread in that environment, students may disperse to other locations. Colleges may want to think about a “mini-shelter in place,” and other options.
- UPDATE: Wedding in southwest Minnesota contributed to at least 70 cases
- Huff: “Few bad apples,” a total of 31 establishments, needed follow-up inspections, and very few of the 31 needed enforcement action. For the “few bad actors,” the “rules were completely breaking down,” resulting in “large outbreaks.”
- 3 of 5 state metrics higher than state’s threshold goals. This is “not good,” said Ehresmann.
- Thoughts on Halloween and spread of coronavirus? Ehresmann: “It’s something we should be looking into late October,” but “premature” at this point.
Bar and Restaurant Checklist:
- Establishments are requiring customers to make reservations.
- All employees are wearing face coverings at all times over their mouth and nose.
- Customers are wearing face coverings over their mouth and nose at all times while indoors unless they are eating or drinking
- Customers are maintaining six feet of social distancing while waiting to be seated, to use the restroom, to order a drink or food, or to pay their bill.
- All customers are seated at tables limited to parties of four, or six if members of the same household, and tables are six feet apart.
- Signs are posted that communicate face covering requirements to customers and workers.
- Establishment are filled to no more than 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 250 people, with social distancing.
- Establishments have developed and implemented a COVID-19 preparedness plan.