The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ended door-to-door COVID-19 testing in Minnesota after its workers faced violent threats and racist slurs from rural state residents.
Among the threats, three workers surveying the small town of Eitzen claimed that three men blocked their path using two cars. One of the men had a holstered gun.
Though the workers were allowed to leave and didn’t file a police report, other workers reported being shouted at and insulted at people’s front doors or being angrily approached on the street. One Latina worker said she was called a particular anti-Latino racist slur “more in the last week than in her entire life,” state senior epidemiology supervisor Stephanie Yendell told the Star Tribune.
The workers were part of a federal CDC team assisting state health officials with the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER), a door-to-door survey that gathers representative demographic data to assess community needs in times of crisis, such as natural or man-made disasters.
Georgia and Hawaii have already undergone CASPER COVID-19 surveys and more are currently being done in other states.
The Minnesota CASPER survey team included 12 CDC workers, six state workers, 22 hired nurses and three local public health workers. Together, they collected 400 samples before the state ended the survey.
State and federal CASPER workers in Minnesota experienced the most hostility in central and southern Minnesota where residents have strongly resented the economic effects of the statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses, the ongoing statewide mask mandate and continued restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Ironically, had the CASPER survey been completed, it could’ve shortened the length of the very COVID-19 mandates that those areas resent, the Star Tribune wrote.
As of September 25, Minnesota has had 93,064 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,040 related deaths. The state ranks 24th amongst the U.S. states with the highest number of overall cases.
On Friday, the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus reported 175 infections over the month of September. University spokesperson Chuck Tombarge said 56 students or staff had been on campus while infectious.
Last week, the state’s Democratic Governor Tim Walz said he wanted lower positivity and infection rates before considering possibly scaling back state social distancing restrictions, according to FOX 9. He added, “One of the last things we’ll do is lose the masks.”
MPR News reported that some school districts across the state have begun shutting down and doing distance learning after more than 350 of the state’s over 2,000 schools had instances of at least one student or staff member contracting the virus.
Newsweek contacted the CDC for comment.