ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Centers for Disease Control has stopped a statewide door-to-door survey on COVID-19 in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced Friday that the CASPER survey which was supposed to last until September 30 was ending and CDC teams will be withdrawn from the state. MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff says CDC survey teams, including ones with people of color, have been reporting hostile receptions and racial slurs. Huff describes the response to the CDC teams as “unprecedented.”
“The enemy is the virus,” says Huff, “not each other.”
In Eitzen, along the Iowa border, one survey team was boxed in by two cars and threatened by three men, including one with a gun. The news comes as Minnesota was downgraded Friday to the “uncontrolled spread” category by a website that tracks each state’s progress toward stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The CASPER survey was focused on 180 locations around Minnesota and designed to help health officials:
- Understand how COVID-19 has spread in Minnesota communities.
- Understand what caused COVID-19 to spread in certain areas.
- Explore how COVID-19 transmission and infection rates differ among regions in Minnesota.
- Identify the percentage of people infected with COVID-19 that have no symptoms.
- Improve health messaging and help stop COVID-19 spread.
Huff says many of the interactions between CDC staff and Minnesotans were positive but survey team members complained of increased anxiety related to field work.
The Houston County Sheriff's Office posted the following on Facebook about the reported incident in Eitzen:
"There are news reports of an incident that occurred last week in Eitzen regarding a confrontation with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) surveyors that were conducting COVID 19 surveys and volunteer testing. The Houston County Sheriff’s Office is now aware that allegations have been made, but at this point cannot confirm or deny the allegations. Unfortunately, we have little additional information at this point other than what has been reported by the news media apparently through MDH. We have requested additional information from MDH but have not yet received the requested information. We have spoken with MDH, but the alleged victims have not contacted our office and at this point we are unsure of their identities and have not spoken with them directly. Obviously the allegations are concerning and wish the surveyors would have immediately reported the incident to law enforcement."