As we settle into the stay-at-home routine necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a map I have been obsessively checking every day. It’s a map of the State of Minnesota that is part of the MN Department of Health’s Situation Update for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It shows the number of positive cases by county of residence.
Here are the maps that I have taken screenshots of since March 31, 2020.
I live in Morrison County, the irregularly shaped county in white in the center of Minnesota. The counties that appear in white have no cases that have tested positive for COVID-19, while the counties in varying shades of green and blue have positive cases, with more cases in counties that have darker blues.
The Twin Cities Metro area has the most cases, which makes sense because it has the highest population density.
As you compare the maps from earliest to latest, note that many of the rural counties appear in white on March 31, but they are quickly filling in with greens or blues as the days pass.
But not Morrison County. Yet.
And this disturbs me no end.
Why? Because I don’t believe for a second that we don’t have a single positive case of coronavirus in the county. Morrison County is where three major highways intersect and is a main thoroughfare for people from the Twin Cities to head to their lake cabins. Sure, it’s not lake cabin season yet, but we have a constant stream of traffic through the county no matter the time of year. Folks from Morrison County also make regular trips to Brainerd/Baxter and St. Cloud for shopping.
That we are surrounded on the south and north by counties that have positive case suggests that coronavirus is here, but no one here has been tested for it. That’s what disturbs me.
That’s my initial read of the situation, if only because Morrison County and its neighbor the the west, Todd County, habitually show up on lists of higher levels of poverty in comparison to other counties in the state. I suspect we don’t have ready access to tests.
As of April 5, 2020, there have been 26,777 tests performed in the state. Now, it could be that people from Morrison County have been tested and their test results have come back negative. That would be a good thing, indeed. But, I doubt that is the case.
What would help us know for sure is for the Minnesota Department of Health to add a data point my daughter (the data analyst) suggested: the number of people in each county who have been tested. That would give us a more accurate picture of whether we have a testing problem in this county or are just incredibly fortunate at this point in time.
I have to hand it to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Governor Tim Walz. MDH is providing an excellent amount of hard data on the pandemic. Because I have been regularly checking the site, I have noticed how they continue to add data points. And Governor Walz is using that data to make decisions for the good of public health. He has given Minnesota’s residents regular updates that are calm, firm, and reassuring, just what we need in a pandemic.
But, I do wish we had a sense of how many people per county have been tested.