The Potluck

Minnesota health officials urge COVID-19 precautions with State Fair, school year ahead

By: - August 24, 2021 3:41 pm

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post.

Minnesota health officials on Tuesday urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they haven’t already and to heed recommendations like wearing masks regardless of vaccination status, as the state’s fourth wave of COVID-19 continues.

Eighty-four of Minnesota’s 87 counties are experiencing “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, up from 14 in late July. With the Delta variant driving up case counts and the State Fair and start of the school year around the corner, officials say precautions are more important than ever.

“We aren’t going to wish away this virus, and Delta is particularly good at finding you if you let down your guard. We all need to step up and do our part,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Unlike earlier phases of the pandemic, COVID-19 precautions are recommended — not required — in many spaces, Ehresmann said. But that doesn’t make them less important, she said.

Health officials emphasized a new CDC recommendation that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in crowded outdoor spaces, which is a change from earlier guidance. The state has been seeing more transmission at outdoor events recently because the Delta variant is more contagious, officials said.

That’s a concern with the State Fair starting Thursday. The Fair announced last week that there would not be mask or vaccination requirements for the 12-day event.

“Any large events with lots of people, whether those are family celebrations or large public gatherings, do pose a risk with this much virus circulating around,” said Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. “Based on what we’ve seen in other communities with large events and even what we’ve seen here in Minnesota, of course we are concerned.”

Fair attendees should wear masks indoors and outdoors, maintain social distancing when possible and get tested three to five days after the event, Ehresmann said.

Minnesota reported more than 3,800 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the highest daily total so far this year. The positivity rate has also ticked above 5%.

The state’s increasing vaccination rate is cause for celebration, however. About 70% of Minnesotans over age 12 have at least one dose of vaccine — more than 3.2 million people. More than 65% have the completed vaccine series.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.