When a server at the Main Street Ale House in downtown Nisswa tested positive for COVID-19, co-owners and brothers Chris and Mike Foy found themselves facing a series of difficult decisions about their business.

Where they landed was taking a more cautious approach than the state requires: voluntarily closing their doors Thursday, July 16, to test all employees and themselves, even those without any close contact to the infected person. Those who spend the most time with the positive employee are also quarantined. Mike Foy said assuming the tests return negative results, the restaurant and bar will likely reopen Friday, July 24.

“We felt like we had to do that to make sure we were being very transparent with everybody,” Foy said during a phone interview Monday. “Which I think is the right move, so that we’re trying not to keep anything from the public.”

Minnesota Department of Health requirements for handling positive cases in the workplace include quarantining and testing people directly working with the infected person in close proximity — which is considered to be at least 15 minutes of exposure within 6 feet and without a mask. But Foy said the choice to completely close was made in an overabundance of caution and to offer peace of mind for the community.

“It’s hard to hit stride during summer months with the threat of COVID popping up at any time. It’s a difficult situation. … Shutting down for eight days voluntarily during July — I’d rather shut down in January for a week,” Foy said. “But 100% of our staff was tested, so there’s no question marks. Us doing this was something we wanted to do because we were one of the first prominent restaurants (in the area) to have a positive case.”

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He noted the employee was tested because of exposure to a known positive outside of work, and they were surprised to learn of their own positive result due to not experiencing symptoms. The employee continued to be asymptomatic as of Monday, according to Foy.

After announcing the circumstances of the closure on social media, Foy said he’s been contacted by customers concerned about possible exposure. He noted the infected employee does a “phenomenal job” of wearing a mask properly and the business as a whole is following all state requirements. This includes taking reservations, which Foy said could then be used for contact tracing purposes by public health workers.

He said he’s also received a lot of support from customers since the closure announcement, and most patrons are understanding about the restrictions and requirements when dining at the restaurant.

“It’s a definite stressor right now, making sure you’re doing the right thing. I guess that’s why we wanted to do the right thing,” Foy said. “… No one’s really given us any flak for it at all. I think they all know that we’re trying to do the right thing.”

Area case update

Although data is expected to be unpredictable for a few days due to a new system employed by the state health department, all area counties except for Todd reported new cases since Friday.

Leading the way was Cass County with five new laboratory-confirmed cases, bringing that county’s total to 32 cases. Confirmed cases have doubled in Cass County since July 7.

Crow Wing, Morrison and Mille Lacs counties each recorded three new cases, with Aitkin and Wadena each seeing one new case. Todd County’s total was adjusted down by one to 404 total cases.

Among the new cases in Crow Wing County is another health care worker. In all, 22 Crow Wing County residents who work in health care have tested positive.

COVID-19 data as of July 20

  • Aitkin — 19 (+1 since Friday, July 17).

  • Cass — 32 (+5).

  • Crow Wing — 130 (+3), with 12 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 45 (+3), with two deaths.

  • Morrison — 73 (+3), with one death.

  • Todd — 404 (-1), with two deaths.

  • Wadena — 19 (+1).

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are likely out of isolation. The number of those no longer needing isolation is not reported on a county-level basis by the state.

Statewide

  • Number of tests — 867,410.

  • Total positive cases — 47,107.

  • Positive health care workers — 4,375.

  • Age range with greatest number of cases — 20-29 years old, with 23.1% of cases.

  • Currently hospitalized — 247, with 115 in intensive care.

  • Total cases requiring hospitalization — 4,678.

  • Total deaths — 1,545, with 40 probable deaths.

  • Deaths among those in long-term care or assisted living — 1,187.

  • No longer needing isolation — 40,742.

Compiled from Minnesota Department of Health data and county sources.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.