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Minnesota halts COVID-19 study after reports of intimidation

Minnesota halts COVID-19 study after reports of intimidation

Associated Press/WDIO-TV
Updated: September 25, 2020 02:42 PM

Minnesota officials have stopped a COVID-19 testing study after multiple reports that state and federal public health workers were greeted by racial and ethnic slurs as they went door-to-door.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control pulled its federal surveyors out of Minnesota this week after they experienced verbal abuse and intimidation.

In Eitzen, along the Iowa border, one survey team was boxed in by two cars and threatened by three men, including one with a gun.

The Minnesota Department of Health had launched the modified Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response, or CASPER, survey on Sept. 14. It had been scheduled to continue through Sept. 30.

To conduct the survey, teams of public health professionals visited randomly-selected households around the state, offering free virus and antibody testing and taking a survey. Participation was voluntary.

The stated goals of the survey included understanding how COVID-19 has spread in Minnesota communities, what caused COVID-19 to spread in survey areas, to explore how transmission and infection rates differ regionally, to identify the percentage of infected people who have no symptoms, and to improve health messaging.

The news of the survey being cut short comes as Minnesota was downgraded Friday to the “uncontrolled spread” category by a website that tracks each state’s progress toward stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The Minnesota Medical Association issued a statement saying it is "greatly disturbed" by the threats against testers and the state's downgrade to "uncontrolled spread."

"We cannot overstate the severity of this virus and Minnesotans must recognize that the target of our frustration and outrage must be the virus, not the public health experts, clinicians and others working to stop it. We urge all Minnesotans to continue to practice good health. Do your part by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you're in any public space, stay six feet apart, wash your hands regularly, and limit gathering in groups," MMA President Keith Stelter, MD, said in a prepared statement.

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