Minnesota health officials say they are monitoring a worrying spike in four border states.
ST PAUL, Minnesota – Minnesota’s top health officials sounded the alarm Thursday over the rise in COVID-19 cases in the border states of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, all of which rank in the top 10. by growth in cases per capita in the last seven days.
“We are nervously watching what is happening in our neighboring states,” said Dan Huff, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. “These states remind us how quickly we can go from walking on the edge of the cliff to rolling over it.”
Although pure case growth, even calculated per capita, cannot always account for variations in test volume, it indicates that the Upper Midwest region has been hit hard by the virus lately. According to a state-by-state tracker designed by New York Times, the Dakotas lead the country in growing cases per 100,000 in the past week, followed by Missouri, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Iowa.
In Wisconsin, health officials again urged the public to abide by the mandate of the mask, noting that Thursday’s one-day case total was the highest by a “wide margin” and that nearly every county has encountered a problem with the virus.
“This is the worst I’ve ever been to in Wisconsin, in terms of the number of new cases,” said state communicable disease epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard. “The level of transmission that appears to be occurring in the community really creates a risk if we see this spreading to populations that are most vulnerable.”
The return of college students to campus drove much of the case growth in Minnesota’s neighboring states.
In Fargo, North Dakota State University has reported 148 cases in the past two weeks involving students and faculty. The governor said this week that surveillance tests are underway to monitor asymptomatic students, with the aim of limiting the spread from younger college students to older populations in long-term care facilities.
At the University of Wisconsin, both the La Crosse and Madison campuses have seen spikes in COVID-19. At the Madison headquarters, the school reported 127 new positive tests among students and faculty on Thursday alone, for a total of 8.3% positive rate over the past seven days (the figures represent tests performed on campus).
The Madison campus also reported on Wednesday its first student admission to hospital.
“The UW system and many other colleges have taken a lot of precautions in taking the tests, in preparing to take the tests,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard said Thursday, “but unfortunately it hasn’t prevented some rather significant outbreaks.”