Forum News Service reports that a funeral for a 78-year-old man in northwest Minnesota led to significant transmission of the novel coronavirus, with 30 people who attended the service contracting COVID-19.
According to the report, which public health officials cannot confirm due to data privacy laws, the funeral happened at a Catholic church in Lake Park, a small town located in Becker County.
"We do have church gatherings, including funerals, among those places where we have traced recent outbreaks," said Kristin Bausman, public health supervisor for Becker County Public Health.
"We are not able to name them as that would identify the individuals involved – and those who are ill and their close contacts know who they are – but it’s important to remember that any gathering of people not of the same household where people are not wearing masks or social distancing is a potential source for spread of the virus."
The report said five people who attended the mid-July funeral were hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends that places of worship, funeral homes, and gathering spaces for funerals limit attendance to 50% normal capacity for indoor settings, with a maximum of 250 people indoors and outdoors.
According to the MDH, Becker County has been home to 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death in the five months that the coronavirus has been known to exist in Minnesota.
"We are seeing an increased level of community transmission in the state related to social gatherings and this, in turn, poses increased risks to our long-term care facilities, schools and workplaces," said Bausman.
"Please wear your mask, stay six feet from the next person, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands and stay home if you are ill."
Lake Park is located about 10 miles west of Detroit Lakes.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been traced to numerous gatherings since Minnesota's stay-at-home order expired, including recent outbreaks traced to basketball and football practices and camps in Lewiston, Minnesota.