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Martin County virus cases surge

FAIRMONT — There has been a steep increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Martin County over the last couple of days.

Chera Sevcik, executive director of Health and Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties, discussed some of the numbers Tuesday, and how local health officials are responding.

“We had 56 cases reported between Sept. 17 and Sept. 21,” she said. “That doesn’t include the 14 cases reported on Tuesday.”

Sevcik described the source points for the spread.

“What we have been identifying through our contact investigation and case tracing is that we are experiencing a large number of individuals who reported attending large gatherings earlier this month that were within their period for becoming infectious,” she said. “We’ve identified, and the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed, there were a few large gatherings that occurred where there was likely to be some transmission of COVID. So we’re seeing some people with common events that they have attended.”

Sevcik noted she has heard concerns over recent door-to-door COVID testing in the area that was conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health.

“One of the questions we’ve been getting quite a bit is about the door-to-door surveillance testing, called the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) study,” she said. “MDH had some staff in our area of the region on Sept. 17 through Sept. 19, and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about if there were a lot of positives from that surveillance testing when they went door to door to randomly identify individuals.”

Sevcik said the short answer is no.

“Every one of the recent positive cases except for three were tested by our local health care providers,” she said. “The three other cases were tested by private vendors that the workplace had brought in to do testing locally. So none of the cases that we have seen over the weekend were a result of the door-to-door surveillance testing at this time.”

Sevcik said health officials are working closely with related groups as they monitor the situation.

“Primarily it’s just that we’re seeing a lot more large events,” she said. “With school starting, that also created an opportunity for transmission to occur. So we’ve been working closely with our partners in the health care industry and our school partners to provide them with some guidance and information to help them make decisions about things.

“I know that Mayo in Fairmont decided to reopen their drive-thru testing site as a result of the huge increase of cases over the last couple of days, and we’ve been working collaboratively with those partners to make some of those decisions.”

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