ST. PAUL – State health officials Friday issued another warning to restaurants and bars, saying they will be “stepping up” their enforcement of Minnesota’s executive order governing social distancing, capacity limits and other COVID-19 protocols.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says they’ve fielded 120 complaints since Monday about potential violations at bars and restaurants statewide.

“The most common complaint from citizens has been employees at these establishments not wearing masks,” Malcolm said. “Also, we’ve heard complaints about too many people in the indoor space, not enough space between tables and several other issues related to lack of social distancing and protection protocols.”

Malcolm says social media posts have played a role in alerting the MDH to establishments not following protocols. She says the vast majority of businesses that received complaints are cooperating with the officials to address issues. Those who aren't could be subjected to fines or cease-and-desist orders.

“We’re stepping up this enforcement not to play ‘gotcha’ with restaurants and bars, but because we feel so strongly that following these requirements is so essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19, to protect both customers and staff, and frankly, to increase our chances of reducing the spread of COVID to a low enough level that we can a pretty drastic dial-back in what establishments are open and how they can operate.”

State Epidemiologist Kris Ehresmann noted that health officials are seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases not attached to a known community outbreak or cluster. On Friday, the number of cases without an unknown means of exposure had reached 7,029.

“We’re seeing much more activity,” Ehresmann said. “We’re hearing about people going to events, camp all kinds of things. We’re seeing a lot more activity with people mixing and not following the guidance, and that’s resulting in increased spread.”

Ehresmann says health officials are expecting an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the next two to three weeks.

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