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Dunn County Coalition Urges Bars, Restaurants To Follow CDC Guidelines On St. Patrick’s Day

Statement Encourages Owners To Avoid Large Gatherings, Maskless Patrons To Prevent COVID-19 Outbreaks

Beer taps are idle at Mo's Irish Pub on St. Patrick's Day.
Beer taps are idle at Mo’s Irish Pub on St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Houston. Houston area bars and restaurants have been ordered to follow new restrictions in an effort to curb coronavirus exposure. David J. Phillip/AP Photos

A group of community leaders in Menomonie are calling on local bar and restaurant owners to follow public health guidelines during St. Patrick’s Day. The message comes nearly one year after Gov. Tony Evers shuttered bars and restaurants as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Wisconsin.

A joint statement from the Dunn County Community Recovery Team, which is made up of city, business and health care organizations, and the University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse notes UW-Stout has seen a reduction in “high-risk behavior related to alcohol use.” It also notes the campus has seen “incredibly low” COVID-19 infection rates this semester.

The statement then asks local bar and restaurant owners to help keep infection rates and problem drinking down.

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“We are jointly asking for those business owners to continue to operate within the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID and limit the opportunity for unhealthy and high-risk alcohol consumption,” the statement reads.

The request to the local hospitality industry is aimed at ensuring preventative measures like using face masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings are enforced during the holiday, said Doug Mell, special assistant to UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank.

“This wasn’t intended in any way as an indictment of anyone in our community who are in the business of dispensing alcohol or those kinds of establishments,” said Mell. “This was basically a proactive way to basically try to get out ahead of St. Patrick’s Day and obviously, to some extent, spring break.”

On Dec. 16, UW-Stout, like other UW campuses, announced it was canceling spring break in hopes of preventing students from traveling and returning to campus with the virus.

The joint statement also asks all residents in Dunn County to continue following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help keep new infections down.

“With spring coming, there is reason to be optimistic that the impact of this pandemic is waning in our community,” said the statement. “But that just means everything we have done to date to combat it is working, and we must remain vigilant until the virus is defeated.”

St. Patrick’s Day will mark the one-year anniversary of Evers’ executive order that banned indoor gatherings of 10 or more people, ordered bars and restaurants to close and extended a previous closure of public schools indefinitely.

One week later, Evers and former state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm extended the closures with the “Safer at Home” executive order.

On May 13, 2020, The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the majority of the order, leaving it up to local county and city governments to pass their own health orders.

On Thursday, the Tavern League of Wisconsin announced in a Facebook post that it had sent a letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi urging the county to end the “one year lockdown targeting the hospitality industry.”

“For the last 12 months Dane County restaurants, taverns and supper clubs have been essentially shut down by Dane County’s Order. The loss of jobs and revenue has been catastrophic for those who have made it through the last year, many have not,” said the post.

In a statement sent to WPR, Public Health Madison & Dane County health education coordinator Christy Vogt acknowledged the impact the pandemic has had on businesses and the hospitality industry. Vogt said that “vaccination is our path out of the pandemic.”

“Given the continued decline in case counts and the number of people vaccinated increasing daily, we are cautiously optimistic that we could see extreme loosening or dissolving of many pandemic restrictions sometime in summer 2021 or even earlier,” said Vogt.