MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials have reported 39 COVID-19 group outbreaks of customers in bars and restaurants so far in 2021 amid otherwise improving measures of pandemic activity.

The latest social outbreak data, released Monday, Feb. 22, by the Minnesota Department of Health, also showed 85 outbreaks related to sporting activities, which are defined as at least two cases on the same team or sports program that can't be traced to other common infection sources.

State health officials remain concerned that outbreaks involving large group events could upset Minnesota's progress with COVID-19, just as they did last fall. On the encouraging side, the positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic testing dropped to 3.6% — the lowest rate since June 24.

Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders have taken a variety of steps over the past month in response to the improving COVID-19 metrics — expanding indoor capacities at bars, restaurants and entertainment venues and calling for some form of in-person classes at all schools in the state by March 8.

Reportable outbreaks in bars and restaurants are defined in Minnesota as involving five people with COVID-19 from unique households that only visited the same establishment in the past month. None of the reportable outbreaks have involved more than 10 such cases.

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Health officials noted that a major difference when compared with the risks of group outbreaks last summer is the continued distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to protect Minnesotans.

(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.