Back to takeout

Due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place last week, in-person dining, like at Fergus Falls’ Viking Cafe, has been temporarily paused  until December.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday night a four-week return to restrictions Minnesotans haven’t seen since April. The plan, called “Dial Back, Minnesota,” calls for a temporary pause to most social activities, in-person dining, sports and indoor group fitness activities in the hope of reducing COVID-19 infection numbers.

Beginning Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m., people are prohibited from gathering with people from other households, whether indoors or outdoors, and no person from outside someone’s immediate household should enter their home. Restaurants and bars will be closed to the public except for delivery and takeout, gyms and fitness studios will be closed to the public and all outdoor events and entertainment will also be closed. Organized sports for youth and adults will be suspended, pools and swim parks will be closed and any outdoor gatherings, such as campgrounds, charter boats or state parks are allowed only with immediate household members.

Ben Schierer, owner of Union Pizza in downtown Fergus Falls, says he and his wife had been considering making the switch to takeout-only anyway. “Quite frankly, the number of cases and people’s behaviors over the last couple of weeks have really changed. It’s been slow,” he says. “Since October and then especially the last couple of weeks when the case numbers really started to rise, people have definitely made the decision on their own to stay home. Not everyone, of course, but then we’ve got to look at the safety of our employees in the dining room and everything.”

Starting Saturday, people can call in their orders for pick up. The Union Pizza menu will not be changing, Schierer says. “We’ll still try to have some specials and some rotating desserts and salads of the day and so on and so forth, it’ll probably pretty much be exactly the same,” he said.

At the Viking, Pat Shol says they’ll be going back to doing what they’d done before the reopening, “which is curbside take-out only, using our front door. We’ll keep the back door closed but you can use the front door on Lincoln Avenue, call in your order ahead of time and we’ll have it ready in a matter of minutes.”

The Viking will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be keeping the same menu. “Each day we’ll make soup and have gravy, too. Won’t really roll out a lot of specials, it’ll just be our normal hot beefs, hot porks, burgers, breakfast all day, that’s also very important, breakfast until we close at 2 p.m. That’s going to be our plan for the next four weeks,” Shol said. He’s working on setting up online ordering but until that’s complete orders can be made over the phone.

Greater Fergus Falls will be running a list of food service hours and availability, updated weekly. NeTia Bauman, business development coordinator for Greater Fergus Falls, says people can help support businesses affected by the mandate by ordering takeout, tipping, purchasing gift cards and merchandise, and leaving positive reviews on Google reviews.

Many restaurants are offering to-go, including American Legion, Applebee’s, Mabel Murphy’s and Fabled Farmer among others. The restaurants offering delivery are Jimmy John’s, Domino’s, Dining Car #423, Service Food, Aldi’s and Mabel Murphy’s.

The fitness part of the YMCA will be closing and executive director Eric Price says they’ll be using the mandated closure as an opportunity to do some maintenance. “We will be using the closure to go through, detail the entire facility, as well as work on trying to see what sort of updates we can do to the facility, whether it’s painting projects, that sort of thing,” Price said. “The main thing is, obviously, making sure we’re keeping costs down and doing our best to develop programs that we can reach out to our members with.”

The YMCA will continue offering their school-age child care program.

Unlike the April restrictions, places of worship will be allowed but there is a strong recommendation to switch to only providing virtual services. Salons, barbershops and tattoo shops will be allowed to remain open by appointment only at 50% capacity and retail businesses will not be affected.

The Dial Back, Minnesota plan runs through Dec. 18. The state is currently in a second wave of COVID-19 cases with test positivity rates hitting numbers unseen since the first peak at the end of April. Case growth, hospitalization rate and community spread have all hit high-risk status according to the Dial Back Dashboard from the Minnesota COVID-19 Response page, which takes its data from the Minnesota Department of Health. A test positivity rate of 10% is considered high risk and the state of Minnesota is currently at 15.4%. Otter Tail County is currently at 12.9%.

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