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Increasing clusters of COVID-19 traced to workplaces, social settings in Minnesota

As of Monday, 1,063 of the state's 2,158 ICU beds were occupied.

Testing in Minnesota has been increasing, and with it are more confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. And while colleges and schools have been the main focus of recent outbreaks, Minnesota health officials say they're also tracking more clusters and outbreaks associated with workplaces and social gatherings. 

Clusters of cases in Minnesota workplaces – defined as three or more COVID-19 cases among employees – have been traced over the duration of the pandemic to: 

  • 89 agri businesses (processing, dairy, bakeries, grocery stores)
  • 40 meat processing plants
  • 182 manufacturing plants
  • 246 other general businesses

Additionally, 77 bars and restaurants have been investigated for outbreaks, which are defined as an establishment being linked to at least seven confirmed or likely cases of COVID-19. Of the 77, 47 had at least seven cases to be counted as an outbreak, with 1,416 total cases linked to those establishments. 

There have been 37 outbreaks traced to weddings, 11 to funerals, 22 to gyms/fitness centers and 62 more linked to other social settings. A recent funeral in Martin County has so far led to 39 confirmed COVID-19 infections, including one person hospitalized, while an outdoor wedding at an undisclosed location resulted in 11 infections and two hospitalizations. 

"We're seeing more and more instances where we have large groups gathering together with little or no social distancing and no masking, and all of those events are contributing to our case numbers," said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director with the Minnesota Department of Health. 

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She said that those events have a ripple effect that generate more cases.

"We're seeing sort of that building, cumulative affect of lots of cases from clusters as well as the ripple effect of all those cases," Ehresmann added. 

The health department has reported at least 900 new cases of COVID-19 in 10 of the past 12 days (through Monday), though the increase in cases is partially a testament to rising testing numbers. 

However, Ehresmann noted Monday that the 7-day test positivity rate in Minnesota was at 5.4%, the second day in a row about the 5% caution threshold that can indicate more aggressive transmission of the virus. 

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