ROCHESTER, Minn. — Health officials on Friday, Oct. 2, released a statement encouraging all who attended the Trump reelection rally at a private airfield on Wednesday, Sept. 30, in Duluth to consider getting tested for COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms.
When you include recent Trump rallies in Mankato, Bemidji and Minneapolis, Duluth is now the fourth Trump campaign event in the past six weeks to defy state health orders placing caps on crowd sizes. Current orders limit outdoor crowds to a maximum of 250 people unless separate seating areas are created.
The Wednesday Duluth event drew 3,000 closely seated attendees.
"There is a potential risk that transmission occurred at the Duluth rally and other events associated with President Trump’s visit," the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement released Friday, Oct. 2. "Community transmission of COVID-19 was high in St. Louis County prior to this week’s rally, and people attending the rally may have been infectious without realizing it."
On Friday, St. Louis County reported an additional 42 cases and three deaths from COVID-19, all cases that would have preceded exposures created at the rally.
"We know many who attended events may have questions about what to do next," the health department's letter continued. "Our guidance is as follows: Anyone who attended events associated with the President’s visit and who now has symptoms should get tested right away.
"People should consider getting tested even if they do not have symptoms because some people may not develop or recognize symptoms and people can spread the virus even without displaying symptoms."
The Friday statement asked that participants consider getting tested five to seven days after the event and that, if they test negative, get tested again around 12 days after the event.
The advice on Friday garnered much notice but it differed little from advice the health department has long given concerning testing and COVID-19, which is that people with symptoms of the illness should get tested as well as anyone who simply thinks they may have reason for concern — such as attending a crowded rally with lots of strangers for several hours.
What made Friday's warning stand out was that the figurehead of that event in question, President Donald Trump, now has COVID-19, a development that, if nothing else, has likely increased concern about the illness among his characteristically COVID-skeptical fans.
The advisory also differed in its unprecedented exposure notice: That persons who may have had close contact with a president of the United States should view that contact as cause for concern.
"Anyone who was a direct contact of President Trump or known COVID-19 cases needs to quarantine and should get tested," it read. "It is important to understand that quarantine for 14 days is necessary regardless of test results."
The need to quarantine was parried by the targets of that notice. GOP Party officials who traveled or met with the president on Wednesday included U.S. House Reps. Jim Hagedorn, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber, as well as Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis. All planned to rejoin public activity following negative COVID-19 test results.
"If I get a couple of negative tests I don't see why I need to stay quarantined for 14 days," Daudt said on MPR Friday. He added that he did not believe he was within 6 feet of the president for 10 minutes.
"There's no get out-of-jail card here with one test," said former state epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm on MPR about those who would have had close contact for 10 minutes. "If they were exposed in the last two to three days, they might not actually test positive for up to 14 days ... having a test in the first three days after you've been exposed is almost meaningless."
State health officials first heard about the president's illness in the news, and have not heard from the White House, per Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota Department of Health.
The state on Friday reported 1,184 cases and 10 deaths from COVID-19. Minnesota has now lost 2,039 lives to the illness. The deaths Friday included three persons each in Hennepin and St. Louis counties, and one each in Washington, Pipestone, Murray and Martin counties.
Seven of the 10 deaths were among residents of long-term care.
The state will provide public COVID-19 screenings on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 1 to 6 p.m. in Aldrich Arena in White Bear Lake. Tuesday through Thursday, Oct. 6-8, the state will hold screenings in Cloquet, Fairmont, Inver Grove Heights, Northfield, St. Joseph and Wilmar. The state will hold testing clinic in Ely on Oct. 6 only. Details can be found at the state's COVID-19 test information page.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.