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9 COVID Cases Traced Back To Bemidji Political Rally, Cases Continue To Rise In Rural Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Right now Minnesota sits in a bubble, surrounded by neighboring states, like Wisconsin and the Dakotas, with some of the highest number of COVID cases in the country. The health department says their problems could become ours.

"Yes, we are seeing some use of Minnesota health resources by residents from our neighbors, particularly in the border communities," said Commissioner Jan Malcomb with the MN Health Department.

State health leaders are worried about the spike in COVID cases they're seeing in rural Minnesota. Health director Kris Ehresmann said there are 12 counties outside of the Twin Cities with higher positivity rates than Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Ehresmann added they've been able to trace some positive cases to the President Trump campaign rally in Bemidji two weeks ago.

"Nine cases reported attending that rally, one case was known to be infected, there were two hospitalizations," said Ehresmann.

Dr. George Morris is a physician at CentraCare, a hospital group serving people across central Minnesota in counties like Stearns, Kandiyohi and Redwood.

"This is a hard time," said Morris, "We have the beds, we have the people, but as we get more of these exposures, what's going to happen to our availability? And that's something to be worried about."

Dr. Morris says an increase in cases not only threatens hospital capacity, but also the health of their staff, who are starting to feel the effects of getting sick or taking care of their family members. So far though, Morris says it hasn't reached a crisis level.

"The concern would be how long can we maintain this pace," said Morris.

MDH says masking, social distancing and avoiding crowds still remain the three key actions that need to be done, all at once, to slow the spread of the virus.

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