WTIP file photo

Gunflint Trail snowmobile Fun Run leads to COVID-19 outbreak in Cook County

A snowmobiling event up the Gunflint Trail in late February led to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Cook County, local public health officials confirmed on WTIP this morning.

The Cook County Snowmobile Fun Run that took place Feb. 27 led to a surge in cases of the new coronavirus in the community, according to Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager.

More than 200 people registered for this year’s Fun Run, according to a post on the Cook County Ridge Riders Facebook page. The local snowmobile club organizes the event each winter to raise money for local snowmobile trails and to promote snowmobiling in Cook County.

This year’s event took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon up the Gunflint Trail. Ice anglers and others who were on the Gunflint Trail Feb. 27 likely noticed participants in the 2021 Fun Run as they gathered at various businesses and lakes along the Trail.

Grinager said during a WTIP interview that extensive contact tracing has taken place since the outbreak was first detected and traced back to the snowmobile Fun Run. Due to extensive outreach and coordination from local public health officials, the spread of the virus is likely to slow down when it comes to cases that originated from this particular event, Grinager said.

The Minnesota Department of Health considers an outbreak of COVID-19 to occur when people from three or more different households are exposed to the coronavirus at the same place.

“This event that happened is considered an outbreak,” Grinager said.

As WTIP reported last week, healthcare officials said there is more active COVID-19 in Cook County at this time than at any other stage of the pandemic. As of March 22, there are 136 total cases of COVID-19 in Cook County since the onset of the pandemic. At least 18 new cases were reported in the past two weeks.

The audio below is Grinager’s interview with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs from March 22.