ROCHESTER, Minn. — Citing an acceleration of case growth, health officials on Monday, Oct. 26, reiterated their message that COVID-19 is spreading almost completely through avoidable actions such as indifference about the dangers of small gatherings, increasingly on the part of rural Minnesotans.

"The earliest phase of the pandemic played out mostly in urban areas," state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm said in a call with reporters on Monday. "More recently, case growth has been even more pronounced in greater Minnesota, particularly the western half of the state where both case growth and hospitalizations are highest.

"Part of this is proximity to the high case growth in bordering states. But we also see higher case numbers in the areas of our state that are also reporting more resistance to following the public health guidance of avoiding large gatherings, keeping social distance and resistance to masking."

With 78% of spread now tied to community transmission, largely during smaller social gatherings, the health department has effectively lost a valuable tool it held when the largest proportion of outbreaks were tied to workplaces. To underscore the role of informal gatherings in the spread, Malcolm singled out the role of weddings in rising case transmission.

"We've had more than 70 wedding-related outbreaks since June," she said, "which have led to more than 650 primary cases. But we also know that each primary case transmits to a number of other people. So if you do the math, if every case transmits on average to three other people, after four transmission cycles, which would be about where we are now from where we were in July, that one case has led to [81] other cases."

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"Minnesota is experiencing a very high and growing level of community transmission of a disease that can cause a huge range of impacts," said state director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann, "some with health problems that linger for weeks or even months. No matter young or old, healthy or underlying conditions, you don't know what your COVID case will be like, and you shouldn't be rolling the dice that it will be mild, because too many people are losing that gamble."

"A single case infects three other people," she added. "Within four generations, that has an impact of 71 infections. Somewhere in the chain of transmission that you start or keep going, there will be someone who has a serious lengthy illness or even die. If you don't worry for yourself, worry for them."

By the numbers

Also on Monday, the state reported an additional 1,578 cases of COVID-19.

The notable spikes in these new cases included 28 cases in Sherburne County, 31 cases in Clay County, 34 cases in Kandiyohi County, 39 cases in Chisago County, 49 cases in Scott County, 55 cases in Wright County, 57 cases each in Stearns and St. Louis counties, and 204 in Anoka County.

The state also reported four deaths on Monday, in Ramsey, Stearns, Todd and Wright counties. All were residents of long-term care.

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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.