Positive COVID-19 tests, exposure through a maskless customer and difficulty following distancing guidelines prompted business closures and changes this week in the lakes area.

Valeri Ann Diller, owner of Valeri Ann’s Family Foods in Merrifield, informed her customers through social media Thursday, Aug. 6, both she and her husband tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. The business is temporarily closed with no specific reopening date scheduled. Diller stated they would follow guidelines for quarantine and testing of staff and would reopen when it’s safe for both them and their customers.

“Until then, please be safe and continue to use caution when being out and about,” the post stated. “We are not immune. Our area is being hit with too many positive results.”

In nearby Ossipee, Grandpa’s General Store announced a temporary closure with plans to reopen Aug. 20.

“This is due to the exposure of coronavirus from one of our unmasked customers,” a social media post stated. “Thank you to everyone who has cooperated by wearing masks. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy.”

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Bar Harbor Supper Club on Gull Lake reopened Thursday after temporarily closing over the weekend. On its Facebook page, the bar/restaurant noted the closure was due to an employee’s potential contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

To the north, Breezy Point Resort announced Thursday it would no longer offer entertainment on the deck at the Dockside Lounge for the remainder of the summer. The bar/restaurant itself remains open for business, along with the rest of the resort.

“It is not possible to put on our shows and adhere to the industry guidance from the MN Department of Health,” a Facebook post stated. “It was a difficult decision but the right one given the times we live in.”

Three establishments that announced COVID-related closures last week have since reopened, while a fourth remains closed through the weekend. O’Neary’s Irish Pub in downtown Brainerd and Harpo’s in Merrifield — each of which reported an employee tested positive — reopened after cleaning.

Harpo’s opened its doors Wednesday, noting in a Facebook post public health officials believed the employee became infected after they’d worked their last shift at the bar. O’Neary’s opened Friday, asking customers to sign in when they arrive, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and stay home if sick. The pub, known for its karaoke, stated the activity requires social distance and mic covers to keep people safe. The Ironton bar Town Tavern reopened Tuesday after a four-day closure following a negative test of an employee, who was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

The restaurant at The Woods — b*merri — announced it would remain closed through the weekend after a person associated with the property tested positive, first reported by July 30.

“It is a difficult pill to swallow closing your doors during the window of opportunity that is our short season up here! But it was the right thing to do!” a Facebook post stated. “And for the sake of our hospitality colleagues, we wanted to demonstrate to the public that restaurants and bars can operate responsibly With the safety of staff/family and guests safety at the forefront of our decision making! We applaud those businesses that have done the same!”

Case numbers

Crow Wing County added 30 new cases in the past seven days, the most of any area county. Confirmed cases have nearly doubled in Crow Wing in less than four weeks — from 115 on July 13 to 228 as of Friday. The county also counted a 14th death this week, while nearby Aitkin County reported its first COVID-related death.

COVID-19 data as of Aug. 7

  • Aitkin — 34 (+5 since Aug. 5), with one death.

  • Cass — 70 (+3), with two deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 228 (+5), with 14 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 69 (+0), with three deaths.

  • Morrison — 85 (+3), with one death.

  • Todd — 422 (+1), with two deaths.

  • Wadena — 25 (+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.

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