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Fewer than 300 COVID transmissions linked to State Fair

As of Friday, officials say 228 confirmed COVID cases have been traced back to the State Fair.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — For months, there were concerns over the safety of having the Minnesota State Fair this year because of COVID.

"I am relieved that these numbers from the fair aren’t higher," said Dr. Hannah Litchsinn, an internal medicine doctor and pediatrician with Hennepin Healthcare. 

State officials say 228 confirmed COVID cases have been traced back to the State Fair as of Friday. For a little perspective, there were more than 1.3 million people in attendance.

So what does that say about transmission rates when it comes to large gatherings of people?

"It only gives us some really limited information about transmission," said Litchsinn. 

Health experts say that 228 count is really only relevant to the number of people who actually got tested after visiting the state fair.

"What we don’t know is one how many people may have had either minor symptoms or no symptoms at all of COVID after going to the fair, never got a test or how many have tested positive and then not shared that information with contract tracers from the Health Department," said Litchsinn. 

Health officials say there are several factors contact tracers consider when looking at transmission rates of the delta variant. One of them being the "R-not" number, meaning how many people an infected person can spread the virus to. 

"The delta variant has an 'R-not' of about 6 or 7," said Dr. Litchsinn. She added, "What we don’t know is how many people from these 200, and some have spread to six or seven others.”

So while these seemingly low numbers may offer a sense a relief, doctors say this doesn’t mean our COVID fight is anywhere near over. 

"We have a high transmission rate, we have high positivity rate of about 5 percent and we are filling our hospitals with people who have COVID," said Litchsinn. 

Leaders with the Minnesota Department of Health say 70% of Minnesotans have been fully vaccinated, and many people chose to mask up at the fair, which also helped keep transmission numbers low.