State Officials Urging Caution and Vigilance Ahead of Holiday Weekend

State Officials Urging Caution and Vigilance Ahead of Holiday Weekend Click to Enlarge Photo: Governor Walz's Office

(KNSI) - Thursday's COVID-19 report from the Minnesota Department of Health shows the positivity rate at around 7%, and health officials say that's up from where it has been.

Governor Tim Walz said the state's positivity rate has been hovering in the manageable 5% range, but, at a press conference Thursday, he says the public hasn't followed the rules and guidelines, so there will be no turn of the dial for now.

"This is a time, I have to be candid with all of you. Six months ago it was my hope that we would be back to doing all of those things we talked about: Going to the state fair, watching high school football, gathering to watch the Gophers on Saturday, all of those things. Well, the virus has not allowed us to do that, and we have to remain vigilant."

The governor and state health officials ask the public ahead of Labor Day weekend to double down on efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings, wash and sanitize your hands, and avoid touching your face.

Governor Walz says while the positivity rate is manageable, the community transmission rate is over 30% and says families going on summer vacations are partially to blame.

"As you've seen, it burned hot, this virus burned hot in the northeast. It moved to the south, it's people seeding things around the country, and now we've seen a lot of people go to different places this summer and bring back infections to the Midwest."

Walz says Minnesota is faring much better when it comes to positivity and transmission rates than our neighboring states, but it's still not great.

"We have stayed at a relatively manageable approximately 5.3, 5.4% positivity rate. That number was under five up until the last several weeks. It has been creeping up. What we know is, is once you get above that number and community spread starts to go, there's a very fine line of a tipping point."

The exact number was not given.

Walz says after Dr. Deborah Birx visited Minnesota last week, the state is walking that fine line.

"And what she was seeing was, is the potential for Minnesota to tip over to that place, and pretty terrifying to hear the president's science advisor on this caution us that these were many of the same flashing lights we're seeing look like Arizona where Arizona went where they are."

Arizona reports its cumulative weekly COVID-19 cases on Sundays, and for the week ending Sunday, August 23rd, 3,222 new Covid-19 cases were diagnosed in Arizona. In Minnesota, weekly averages are reported on Thursdays. For the week ending August 27th, Minnesota reported 5,082 new cases.

Walz says it's the "innocent" gatherings people need to be careful around.

"The backyard meetings, the barbecues, families mixing together not in their immediate family is driving a lot of what's happening here. And again, I understand the pain of this. This is the basic social things that make summer so fun, but that's exactly the type of thing that we're seeing is having an impact on some of the spread."

Walz added everyone must do their part to slow the spread, protect each other, and keep our businesses open.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also asked the public to exercise caution around private gatherings like parties, weddings, and funerals, citing case growth in private settings.