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1 wedding + 275 guests + 0 masks = 56 COVID cases in 9 Minnesota counties

Health officials sound the alarm before holiday weekend that individual actions are needed to prevent worsening

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Photo: Jeremy Wong/Pexels
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz and state officials Thursday, Sept. 3, pointed to a rise since July in the case positivity rate — from 4.3% to 5.5% — in their continued appeal for residents to exercise caution in social gatherings, especially over the coming holiday weekend.

The portion of positive cases related to community spread — no known origin — also has triggered state officials' concern, rising from 27.8 % to 33.5% over the same period.

In a departure for the normally tight-lipped health officials, at Thursday's news conference state Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann noted how one indoor wedding in southwest Minnesota had more guests than allowed (275), an event with no masks that has now produced 56 cases in nine counties.

"Among the new cases were educators, long-term care workers, and health care workers," Ehresmann said, expressing concern about the ability of those professions to spread illness to vulnerable populations. Ehresmann said health officials believed the number was an undercount, as health officals had come to believe that some guests were not being tested in order to keep the case numbers low, thereby allowing further spread.

"Of course, failing to acknowledge a problem does not make that problem go away," Ehresmann said, "it just makes it worse .... allowing the virus to spread undetected in the community, which prolongs the outbreak and rolls the dice with lives of people around them."

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Ehresmann also revealed health officials' recent discovery via contact tracing that a participant in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last month, a gathering itself associated with a cluster of cases, had gone on to attend a wedding in Minnesota.

"The decision to attend a high-risk event and not self-quarantine resulted in others getting sick," she said. "The common thread in these stories is that during a pandemic, one person's actions and decisions don't just affect themselves. We need people to understand that your risk tolerance in your ability to shrug off COVID doesn't mean you can't pass it to others ... none of us are an island."

The state of Minnesota recorded 783 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, Sept. 3, a number below the earlier, record-setting announced one day count of 1,047 cases. The previous high was inflated by a backlog of 284 cases. The one-day record remains 1,032 cases on Aug. 29. The new cases bring the state's laboratory confirmed case total to 78,123.

The health department also reported seven deaths from the illness on Thursday, including one death each in Carver, Dakota, Itasca, Lake of the Woods and Olmsted counties, and two deaths in Hennepin County, one person in their 50s. Three of the deaths were among residents of long-term care. The deaths bring the state total number of lives lost to 1,837.

With 297 cases in suburban metro counties and 291 cases in the urban core, the day's numbers, inflated somewhat by a backlog, underscore a trend in which COVID-19 transmission is increasingly more active in suburban than in urban areas at this time.

The new cases also included a series of spikes in counties hosting colleges and universities.

There were 58 cases reported Thursday in Stearns County (home to St. Cloud State), 36 cases in Blue Earth County (home to Mankato State), and 26 cases each in Clay County and Winona County, (home to Winona State, St. Mary's and Minnesota State University Moorhead)

Health officials reported 13,926 additional tests on Thursday. There are currently 272 Minnesotans in the hospital with COVID-19, 138 in an ICU setting.

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  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website .

Paul John Scott is the health correspondent for NewsMD and the Forum News Service. He is a novelist and was an award winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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