MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — COVID-19 survey teams have been pulled from Minnesota after teams encountered intimidation and racism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that it pulled federal surveyors out of the state this week after multiple incidents.
According Minnesota Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff, health officials were “deeply disappointed” to hear about the incidents that led to the CDC’s decision to pull the teams. He says survey teams with people of color have been subjected to racial slurs.
In one incident, Huff said a survey team in the southern Minnesota town of Eitzen was blocked by two cars and confronted by three men — with one being armed. He says racial epithets were used by the men and the workers felt intimidated.
“Many of the individual incidents could perhaps have been considered misunderstandings, but over the past week, a pattern emerged where the CASPER teams that included people of color were reporting more incidents than teams that did not include people of color. Given the uncertainty of the situation and the impact the incidents had on team members, CDC decided to demobilize their field staff,” Huff said.
Huff said the survey, called CASPER, hoped to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading in the state and how it is affecting people, which could have helped improve multiple aspects of the state’s response to the virus.
“We know people are hurting and frustrated. We also know some people disagree with various government policies and approaches, but there is a difference between disagreeing with a policy and taking out frustrations on a public health worker who is trying to do their job and help the community as best they can,” he said. “And no matter how frustrated someone may be, we must draw a clear line at expressions of racism against and intimidation of workers who happen to be people of color.”
Huff said the health department stands against racism in its many forms, whether individual acts or structural racism.
“We know most people understand this, and we hope this episode gives us all a chance to take a pause and consider how we treat each other during this stressful time. The enemy is the virus, not each other,” he said.
Minnesota health officials say the survey was voluntary and families could say no if they did not want to participate.
Source: CBS Minnesota