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Minnesota COVID testers 'confronted by a group of armed citizens'

For one team of examiners, a state/federal project to offer free and voluntary -- voluntary! -- in-home tests got off to a scary start.

For one team of examiners, a state/federal project to offer free and voluntary -- voluntary! -- in-home tests got off to a scary start. Associated Press

As of last week, workers for the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are making house calls, conducting a statewide survey to track the spread of COVID-19.

From September 14 through September 30, the state/federal teams will "visit randomly selected households in 180 preselected sites around Minnesota," according to a health department announcement. One member of each of the houses on their list will be asked to complete a questionnaire, while all members will be offered a free test for coronavirus, or antibodies indicating they'd had the virus previously.

Both are voluntary, though state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield encourages people to participate, as results will help health experts "refine our recommendations to best meet the needs of our Minnesota communities." 

Locations for testing sites were determined by census blocks, and the methodology behind these randomized house drop-ins has been used in response to past public health crises like hurricanes, and the 2015-16 Zika outbreak, which ultimately infected fewer than 6,000 people in the entire United States mainland. 

Coronavirus, by contrast, has infected more than 90,000 people in Minnesota alone, and is responsible for 1,965 deaths and 7,163 hospitalizations through Sunday

The attempt to monitor its spread in communities led to a tense moment at some point last week, according to the Pioneer Press. An email the Minnesota Department of Public Safety sent to police departments was reprinted by at least two law enforcement agencies on social media accounts. 

Along with an explanation of what the examiners were doing, the department included this passage: “I am sending this email because a team of MDH and CDC examiners was recently confronted by a group of armed citizens while out in a neighborhood.”

A health department spokesperson tells the PiPress the "incident was unfortunate," and commends the team confronted for "leaving and notifying their site study coordinator of the situation." The spokesperson didn't say when or where the confrontation took place.

One post from the Chaska Police Department -- which wrote they "have already received calls about this" -- was met with overwhelmingly negative feedback, including:

  • "Truly terrifying seeing a police department proudly announcing their support of uninvited health house calls on citizens. And when the visits become mandatory, will you be there supporting them? You need to wake up to the fact that you are becoming pawns in a very sinister agenda."
  • "I can see how this is going to play out. This year it's voluntary testing, Next year, the knock at the door will be mandatory testing, then it'll be voluntary vaccination, and then ultimately mandatory vaccination."
  • "So they want to get some DNA samples from every household?"
  • "They best not knock on our door!!! This is getting ridiculous!"

To date, there is no reported incident of anyone fighting off coronavirus by shooting it.