Minnesota health officials are now advising anyone who attended a protest or large gathering over the weekend to get a test for COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not.

"We want to convey our strong encouragement for people who participated in some way in a demonstration or in any large gathering in any way — such as a vigil, clean-up events, folks providing water or foods to protesters, anyone who participated in these large gatherings — we are strongly encouraging you to get tested for COVID-19," said state Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm on Wednesday, June 3.

The announcement comes two days after health officials said Monday that they would wait a few days before offering guidance, in recognition of the need to allow those who may have been exposed to develop a testable presence of coronavirus.

Malcolm advised people seeking tests to visit their primary care provider, and if they do not have a primary care provider, to consult the state COVID-19 website for directions to a testing center nearby.

Also Wednesday, Malcolm addressed a question by a caller during a radio interview who asked if the use of tear gas and pepper spray by law enforcement — weapons causing the shedding of tears, runny nose and coughing — likely worsened the transmission of COVID-19 among protesters. Large-scale protests were held in the Twin Cities and other Minnesota communities in response to the death of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Malcolm declined to negatively characterize the use of chemical irritants by Minnesota law enforcement during the civil unrest, practices that have been widely described as aggressive and indiscriminate.

"It is absolutely true that certain irritants could make people cough more or sneeze more or eyes water more, which if they were already a carrier, might exacerbate the chance of transmission," Malcolm said. "And certainly irritants on anybody with a respiratory condition of any kind exacerbates the problem. I believe that law enforcement was mindful of that, and being as judicious as they could. It's a very difficult situation obviously with a great deal going on at once."

The state reported 372 new cases and 14 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday. The new deaths raise the state total to 1,086.

One death each was reported in Washington, Stearns, Ramsey and Goodhue counties. Two deaths each were reported in Anoka and Crow Wing counties, and six deaths were reported in Hennepin County. Ten of the 14 deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities, but none were in nursing homes.

More than 265,000 Minnesotans have now been tested for COVID-19, a figure equal to roughly 5% of the state population. The health department now believes that 5% of the population has COVID-19. The laboratory-confirmed case number now sits at 25,870

North Dakota

The Fargo-West Fargo metro area continues to be the state’s hotspot for COVID-19 as health officials Wednesday announced 33 new cases.

The department also confirmed the death of a Cass County man in his 70s from COVID-19.

The man's death brings North Dakota's total number of fatalities from the illness to 66. All but 11 of the deaths have come in residents of Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and has seen the vast majority of the positive cases in the state.

Twenty-one of the new cases Wednesday came from Cass County. The county now has had 1,783 known cases, but the department reports more than three-quarters of the infected residents in the county have recovered. More than 70% of the currently infected North Dakotans reside in Cass County.

Five of the new cases came from Stutsman County, which includes Jamestown. The county has largely avoided the worst of the pandemic and has just 11 currently infected residents.

The other seven new cases Wednesday came from Burleigh, Grand Forks, Ransom, Walsh and Ward counties.

South Dakota

State health officials reported 5,162 positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. The number of deaths remained the same at 62 for the fourth day in a row. Recoveries are at 4,084, up 94 from Tuesday. Current hospitalizations are at 87.

A total of 456 people have been hospitalized since the pandemic began in March.

Wisconsin

A total of 19,400 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported as of Wednesday. That's an increase of 483 cases from Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Nine more people have died from COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 616.

Around the region

  • The South Dakota Department of Agriculture announced the South Dakota State Fair, scheduled for Sept. 3-7, will continue. Components of the fair may be scaled to ensure Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are being implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said state officials are looking at ways to increase testing in the state. Although North Dakota ranks among the top states in the country in testing per capita, it has yet to hit its goal to process at least 4,000 tests per day. Burgum floated the idea of testing visitors at nursing homes, which could help inform the state's plans to allow resumed visitation at the facilities.

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