The New York Times has been tracking COVID-19 cases across the country since the beginning of the pandemic, and its latest report suggests the Brainerd area of central Minnesota is among the potential hot spots moving toward a potential outbreak.
The data is based on areas with at least 50,000 people and then calculated on a per 100,000 people equation. The Brainerd area ranks seventh in the country with case growth in the past 14 days based on the criteria, with the area totaling 169 cases during the first seven days of the report and 304 cases in the most recent seven days.
But the Minnesota Department of Health says despite the New York Times singling out the Brainerd area, most of Minnesota is seeing increasing case levels.
"We don’t use the same metrics as the New York Times, so it’s hard to say definitively. There’s no reason to doubt their data, but we aren’t seeing a significant difference in this county/metro area compared to others," an MDH spokesperson told BMTN. "Cases are increasing statewide, with variations in how quickly cases are increasing in different counties. This is normal and has happened throughout the pandemic."
Every Thursday the health department releases county-level data to show how many cases per 10,000 residents there are in Minnesota. Brainerd is located in Crow Wing County – a county with 19.4 cases per 10,000 residents, as of March 27.
There are 34 counties that were seeing more cases per 10,000 residents for the week ending March 27, and Crow Wing County's rate of 19.4 is almost identical to the statewide average of 19.3 (cases per 10,000 residents).
Based on MDH's data, Jackson County in southwest Minnesota has had the most explosive week-over-week rise in cases, going from 15.9 cases per 10,000 residents the week ending March 20 to 49.8 for the week ending March 27.
Of course, no city or area in Jackson County qualifies for the New York Times report because there are fewer than 50,000 residents in the county.
You can see the health department's county-level case rates right here (click Weekly Case Rate by County of Residence).