One of former President Barack Obama’s top health care officials said he asked Gov. Tim Walz to reclose all bars in Minnesota during a Sunday phone call.
Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he urged Walz and Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to close “all of the bars to indoor service across the state of Minnesota” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I’d like to explain. As challenging as this is to bar owners and patrons, this isn’t even close to a difficult recommendation to make at this time,” said Slavitt, who lives in Edina, Minnesota.
“Bars have been the source of most of the major community hot spots. From NY to CA to TX to AZ, they represent the clearest discernible difference in accelerating case growth. When they are open, spread increases. When they close, they go down. This is not a secret,” he said on Twitter Sunday evening.
I spoke to Governor Walz and Commissioner Jan Malcolm today and called for closing all of the bars to indoor service across the state of Minnesota.
— Andy Slavitt @ 🏡 (@ASlavitt) July 12, 2020
Slavitt claimed precautionary measures like social distancing, wearing face masks, and closing early don’t make much of a difference in bars.
“For all the conversation around masks, with bars open, masks simply won’t matter enough. Bars are one of the few places where strangers congregate inside, in close quarters, with music and noise, speaking loudly. Also, drunk,” he said. “There is no viable solution until community spread is gone and cases are contained.”
Walz allowed bars and restaurants to resume limited indoor dining on June 10, but Slavitt thinks bars should return to outdoor and takeaway service only. He also called for increased federal financial support for “neighborhood bars.”
“For states that have bars open, they will either close when the virus is out of control or they will close before the virus is out of control,” he concluded. “Lower case counts, rapid testing, vaccines, and other conditions mean this won’t be forever.”
As of Monday afternoon, Minnesota had 42,772 cumulative COVID-19 cases with 37,199 patients no longer requiring isolation. The state has had a total of 1,504 confirmed deaths, 1,172 of which occurred among residents of long-term care facilities.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Andy Slavitt” by Andy Slavitt / unitedstatesofcare.org.