Lake Minnetonka was among the scenes on the Fourth of July that saw large crowds gather in close quarters despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
Photos taken from the lake show boats lined up at Big Island, a typical hotspot for Fourth of July celebrations, with many reports of the majority of people not wearing masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is a key tool in helping slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The scene on the west metro lake was among the packed beaches and lakes featured on national TV news, as shown in this clip from ABC.
“We’re young and healthy so it’s OK,” one person told WCCO-TV on Saturday. “We can have a good time.”
Just a couple of days before the Fourth of July, Minnesota Health Commission Jan Malcolm urged partygoers to use caution while celebrating, reminding young people that they are "not invincible," nor are their loved ones who may be more vulnerable to worse symptoms from the virus.
In his latest podcast with the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Dr. Michael Osterholm said he expects the younger population to start infecting more vulnerable people that have isolated themselves.
"Viral gravity works. This virus is going to keep looking for susceptible people. It is going to keep finding them," Osterholm said. "This is not a one time surge of cases. This could come and go and come and go until we have a safe and effective vaccine."
Minnesota has seen a decline in positive test rates over the past month, though states that reopened businesses earlier have begun to experience explosive case growth.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Minnesota is among 23 states that are below the 5% positive test rate threshold for keeping the economy open. Over the past seven days, Minnesota has a 3.4% positive test rate. Just about two weeks ago, the seven-day rolling average was as low as 1.6% positive in Minnesota.
States with significantly higher positive test rates over the past week include Arizona (25.86%), Florida (18.14%), South Carolina (16.46%), Mississippi (15.78%) and Texas (13.87%). Many of those states have since rolled back reopening plans.
Recent Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody in Minneapolis haven't resulted in huge spikes of viral transmission, but it will likely take up to three weeks to know if Fourth of July celebrations lead to outbreaks similar to how bars reopening in Minnesota have.