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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Olmsted County Public Health is reporting that 70 new COVID-19 cases have been linked to an outbreak associated with young people socializing in downtown Rochester bars.

Local health officials last week urged anyone who had been visiting downtown bars where face mask and/or safe social distancing recommendations were not being followed to consider getting tested for the new coronavirus. That resulted in a surge in the number of people seeking testing over the weekend. Almost 1900 COVID-19 tests were conducted at the Graham Collaborative Collection Site from Friday through Monday, including a record-high 807 tests on Monday.

County Public Health Director Graham Briggs says the testing identified 79 new COVID-19 cases. So far, 58 of the new cases have been directly linked to downtown bars where not everyone was using a face mask and social distancing was not always followed. One of those cases involved a person who required hospitalization because of the infection.

Since then, 12 secondary cases have been identified among people who contracted the infection through contact with a person who tested positive after socializing in downtown bars. Health officials have also identified 227 other people who may have been exposed to the virus through their association with a positive case and those people are being contacted by public health.

While the surge in testing did result in an increased number of confirmed cases locally, it did not find evidence of an exponential spread of illness. Briggs noted the percentage of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 remained fairly stable at 3.7-percent.

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