MDH COVID-19 briefing: Health officials discuss trends in case data, Halloween and voter safety

MDH COVID-19 briefing: Health officials discuss trends in case data, Halloween and voter safety Photo: KSTP-TV.

KSTP
Updated: October 28, 2020 03:54 PM
Created: October 28, 2020 03:36 PM

During the state's regular COVID-19 briefing, state health officials discussed trends in COVID-19 case data, as well as safety surrounding the celebration of Halloween and voting during the election.

According to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Wednesday marked 21 consecutive days with more than 1,000 new cases reported. On Wednesday, 1,916 new cases were reported, with 112 of them being noted as probable cases.

"It took us almost two and a half months at the beginning of the pandemic to reach 13,000 cases, but we've added 13,000 cases just in the last seven days," Malcolm said. "This is a pattern that certainly caught the attention and alarmed White House COVID advisor Dr. Deborah Birx when she visited our state last weekend ... and these are the patterns that should be alarming to every one of us."

MDH: 19 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,916 new cases in latest report

Malcolm said, this week, Minnesota's case growth grew to 10.2%, which is up from a 9.3% rate of case growth the week prior. The seven-day average positivity rate remains at 6.5%. However, there is a one-week lag. Malcolm added that increased testing is expected to cause that number to grow.

The commissioner took a brief moment to discuss how social gatherings have contributed to the spread of the virus in Minnesota. According to Malcolm, there have now been 71 outbreaks associated with weddings, with 674 cases among those who attended the wedding.

She said sharing those numbers isn't meant to shame anyone but rather to reiterate "the risk is real" and that social settings are "helping to drive this pandemic."

The commissioner once again spoke about the importance of people following guidelines that are in place to curb the spread. Malcolm used an analogy used by Gov. Tim Walz, calling the COVID-19 pandemic "a long, dark, cold winter."

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"We suggest that we say these latest numbers show that we're in a strengthening winter storm," she said. "And when we're facing a winter storm, we ask people to stay off the roads. Not just because their cars will be the ones to be stuck in the ditch but because, the fewer people we have on the roads, the easier it is for snowplow drivers and emergency works to keep the roads clear and keep people safe."

Malcolm added, "We suggest that we're in the same situation now with the building COVID-19 storm. We need everyone to do their own part, not just for their own good, but for the good of their community and their state."

Following the commissioner's plea, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann spoke to how Minnesotans can follow certain guidelines and offered suggestions to stay safe while celebrating Halloween and voting on Election Day.

"We know that holidays are important times for having fun and connecting with friends, family and neighbors, and we know that people will look for ways to celebrate," she said.

Ehresmann pointed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations for how to best celebrate Halloween. The guidance from the CDC breaks down activities by the risks they pose in spreading COVID-19, instead of a what-to-do or what-not-to-do list.

Ehresmann broke down a number of activities and their risks, including:

  • Low risk: Carving pumpkins, decorating home, virtual costume contest, virtual/in-home movie night, scavenger hunt at home.
  • Medium risk: One-way trick-or-treating so people can grab them without breaking social distancing; outside costume party, with social distancing and mask-wearing.
  • High risk: Traditional trick-or-treating, even a trunk or treat activity, indoor haunted house, costume party gathering indoors.

In regards to voting, Ehresmann said elections officials have worked to make sure polling places are safe for in-person voting.

For those who do plan to head to the polls on Election Day, Ehresmann suggested visiting polling places during off-peak times.

As when visiting other public places, Ehresmann asked Minnesotans to remember to wear a mask, practice social distancing and practice good hand hygiene when at polling places.

More information about safe voting on election day can be found here.

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