State public health officials have warned for weeks that backyard parties, informal get-togethers and social functions to start the school year are fueling the latest COVID-19 case counts. Those worries are surfacing into reality.
Officials have tallied infections in college towns and among Minnesotans who went to the massive August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D. On Thursday, they declared a late-August wedding in southwestern Minnesota as the state’s largest social spreader event to date.
Some 275 people attended the wedding and reception in Ghent, in Lyon County, on Aug. 22. There are now 75 COVID-19 cases scattered over 14 counties directly tied to that wedding, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Thursday.
One person has been hospitalized. The median age of those infected from the wedding is 25; the age range runs from 10 to 84 years old.
“This is the largest event we’ve seen pertaining to disease transmission for a social event,” Ehresmann said.
Many of those at the wedding worked in health care and education, but the department hasn’t yet identified any cases of secondary spread, she added.
Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:
82,249 positive cases, 75,425 off isolation
257 still hospitalized, 138 in ICU
1,646,961 tests, 1,205,501 people tested
College campus worries rise
State health authorities remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus.
People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 19,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 11,000 among people ages 20-24.
They’ve been driving the recent outbreaks, although the number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, topping 7,500 total cases for children 15 to 19 years old since the pandemic began.
The reality of those worries came into focus Tuesday as Winona State Universityannounced an immediate 14-day campus quarantine that will limit all nonessential activities on campus for the next two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
While less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations and could also hamper attempts to reopen campuses completely to in-person teaching.
There are 236 cases tied to Winona State.
Officials are also concerned about case clusters around Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead.
The state is working with colleges now on strategies. While a natural response might be to shut down campuses and send students home, that risks dispersing infections even wider, Ehresmann told reporters Wednesday.
About one-third of new cases in Minnesota are now coming from community spread of unknown origin — higher than just before the Fourth of July, the last major holiday that brought Minnesotans together.
Regionally, the Twin Cities and suburbs had been driving the counts of newly reported cases. Recent data, though, show cases have been climbing in northern and central Minnesota.
Minnesota’s seven-day trend still shows roughly 6,000 active, confirmed cases, although the number — confirmed and unconfirmed — was likely higher in May when testing was much lower.
New case growth has been relatively moderate this week. However, it’s unclear if this is an encouraging trend or the product of Labor Day weekend reporting delays or some other data issue.
Recent testing numbers remain low, which likely explains the moderate case growth. “We’re still likely seeing depressed numbers from over the holiday weekend,” Ehresmann told reporters.