Minneapolis health officials will be watching in the next three to four weeks to see if the large, peaceful protests or the unrest that followed George Floyd’s death will lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In the meantime, in an effort to minimize any further spread of the coronavirus, city Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant told City Council members Friday that the city will set up additional testing sites.
Minneapolis has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, accounting for roughly 13% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, even though it has only 7.5% of the state’s population, according to the latest statistics released by the city.
As of Thursday evening, the city had 3,579 confirmed cases and 569 hospitalizations. The pandemic has killed 142 people in the city. Another 2,854, were considered recovered.
The state had been awaiting the local peak of the coronavirus pandemic before the nights of protests, riots and memorials began.
“We’re all looking for a leveling off,” Council Member Cam Gordon said during Friday’s public meeting.
He asked Musicant if there was evidence of that. She cautioned it was too early to tell. Data available so far largely reflects cases that were contracted before the large gatherings in Minneapolis.
“The state is seeing some positive turning of the peak, and so I’m hopeful that because we are contributing a significant amount to the statewide numbers, that our numbers are also doing that. But, we will have to wait and see,” she said. “It does give us some sense of hope, but we’ll see if that is well-placed.”
Musicant, presenting data available earlier in the week, told the council that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic residents. A community advisory group is preparing a report on racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and expects to release it in the next couple weeks, she said.
For the first time, the city also released a breakdown of cases by neighborhood. That data showed that 10 neighborhoods recorded more than 100 cases each. Those neighborhoods were East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, Ventura Village, Lind-Bohanon, Willard-Hay, Cedar-Riverside, Whittier, Central and Powderhorn Park. Council members noted that those neighborhoods are some of the most densely populated, and the data only showed raw case counts, as opposed to the rate of infection in those areas.
“This is a reflection of where people live,” Musicant said. “They were not necessarily exposed where they live. They could be. Some of the exposures might be connected to their work.”
Musicant said, starting next week, city officials hope to have COVID-19 testing set up at Sabathani Community Center, Native American Community Clinic, New Salem Baptist Church and another yet-to-be-determined location near the Third Precinct police headquarters, which was the focal point for many of the recent demonstrations and riots. The state recently updated its guidelines to recommend testing for anyone involved in large gatherings, such as protests or cleanup events.
In addition, city officials are working with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and a private landlord to increase testing in the densely populated, predominantly black Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, home to a cluster of infections.
The city noted in a statement that it expects it will be three to four weeks before officials know the full impact of recent unrest and cleanup efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic. City officials said they expect gatherings to continue this weekend, the incubation period for the virus can be up to 14 days, and there can be up to a week delay between testing and reporting the results.
Staff writer Miguel Otárola contributed to this report.