Coronavirus Survey Halted After Staff Confronted Racial Slurs, Officers Say

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Coronavirus Survey Halted After Workers Faced Racial Slurs, Officials Say

A coronavirus poll in Minnesota was halted after several cases of residents "intimidating and yelling" racist and ethnic slurs against door-to-door public health workers, according to the state health department.

In one episode in Eitzen, Minnesota, a town of 250 people about 170 miles southeast of Minneapolis on the Iowa border, a team of workers “was surrounded by three men who refused to accept their identification as public health workers "Dan Huff, an assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health, said in a statement.

One of the men was armed and the men used "racist epithets" during the confrontation, he said.

"The workers felt that the men's intent was to intimidate them," Huff said.

He said there have been "a number of worrying incidents across Minnesota," including those where local residents followed and videotaped workers and threatened to call the police.

As a rule, there were two employees in each team, with no more than 15 teams on site at the same time, said a department spokeswoman.

The survey, a joint effort by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aimed to improve epidemiologists' understanding of the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Cases have risen to record levels in the state, according to a New York Times database. The number of new cases per day peaked in Minnesota on Sunday when the state reported 1,296 new cases.

Public health workers planned to visit randomly selected households in 180 locations in rural, suburban, and urban areas of Minnesota from September 14-30. The confrontation with the armed man took place one day after the survey began.

As part of the survey, one member of each household was asked to fill out a questionnaire and anyone who was interested could get a free coronavirus or antibody test.

Eitzen Mayor Jeff Adamson said in an interview on Friday night that residents were concerned about the unusual sighting of a vehicle with California license plates, but denied that any confrontations in the city were racist slurs or guns.

Mr Adamson said a vehicle from a distant state "arouses suspicion" in every small rural community.

"With everything going on and child abduction," he said, people in town wanted to check what the vehicle was doing there.

He said it was "hard to find the words" to describe his disbelief in the allegations.

The three men who participated in the September 15 encounter are "three outstanding citizens of the city," said Adamson, adding that he was able to identify them because "everyone knows everyone in town."

The men, as well as a homeowner who witnessed what happened, described the interaction as "quite a pleasant conversation," he said. He declined to identify the residents.

"I don't know where the hatred is coming from on this matter, I really don't know," he said. "It sure doesn't come from the town of Eitzen, Minnesota."

In a statement later on Friday evening, the mayor said: “We want to make it clear that a weapon or weapon has never been present and that no threats or aggressive behavior have emerged during the interaction between members of the city and the Covid-19 team. We can only assume that the team misinterpreted a large fire department communication radio in a holster for a firearm. "

In response to Mr. Adamson, the Department of Health spokeswoman said, “When the staff reported this incident to us, we took it very seriously and have no reason to doubt the details. The reports were serious enough that C.D.C. decided to call their teams back and the study ended. "

The C.D.C. did not respond to a request for comment on Friday night.

Mr Huff said the isolated interactions "might have been viewed as misunderstandings, but a pattern has emerged over the past week".

"Teams with colored people reported more incidents than teams without colored people," he said.

In parts of rural Minnesota, some residents have made fun of coronavirus protocols, such as a statewide mandate to wear a mask.

"There's a difference," said Huff, "between being out of line with a policy and being disappointed in a public health worker trying to do his job and help the community as best he can."

Mr Adamson said residents were not upset about the coronavirus restrictions but were largely "running their own day-to-day business", including "social gatherings".

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