UPDATE: 9:00 p.m. The City of Eitzen released a statement Friday night regarding the incident.
The City of Eitzen in no way supports racism or violence. We are shocked by the accusations made in news reports released today, and saddened to hear our city is being slandered. We would like to retell the actual events that occurred in Eitzen on September 15:
In the early evening of September 15, a concerned citizen notified a city official of three people driving an unmarked vehicle with California state license plates. The team of people were going door to door claiming to be conducting a covid-19 survey and tests. The city was not notified prior to the team’s arrival, and we felt there was a need to follow up on the situation. A city official and two other residents met the covid-19 team to verify their identification. Two vehicles driven by the city official and residents were parked on either side of the Covid-19 team’s vehicle, but it was never blocked. The city official asked the Covid-19 team for identification, which was presented. Out of an abundance of caution, the Houston County Sheriff’s Department was also contacted to verify the team’s presence in the city. The Sheriff’s department did state that the vehicle was supposed to be marked, but they confirmed the team was part of the Department of Health. After properly identifying the team, they were left to continue conducting their research within the city. We would like to make it clear there was never a gun or any weapon present and no threats or aggressive behavior occurred during the interaction between the city members 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.
The safety and welfare of our citizens is our number one priority. We strive to quickly respond to any situation where citizens feel there is reason for concern. In a very small town where everyone knows everyone, a group of unfamiliar people with out of state plates is unusual, and to some residents is cause for concern. This situation was handled professionally, courteously, and unbiased with no racial slurs, threats or inappropriate comments made. We have and will continue to be open and honest with law enforcement agencies investigating this situation. The only contact made to law enforcement during the alleged confrontation was made by the city official while the covid-19 team was present.
Jeffrey Adamson, Eitzen City Mayor
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is disappointed with multiple reports that testers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were harassed, specifically about race.
The testers were assisting in the COVID-19 Public Health Survey, known as the CASPER project in Minnesota; which is now halted.
The voluntary statewide survey began on Sept. 14 as an ongoing effort to understand COVID-19 in Minnesota. This was to happen at random homes in 180 pre-selected communities across the state.
Earlier this week, MDH was notified the CDC decided to withdraw its field staff. The CDC says its teams were dealing with very hostile communities, that went as far as including racial slurs towards team members of color.
MDH says one incident of concern happened on Sept. 15 in Eitzen, which is in Houston County. According to the state, the team encountered three men who ‘boxed in’ their vehicle with two vehicles of their own. We are told one of the men had his hand on a holstered gun.
The Houston County Sheriff’s office released this statement about the incident Friday afternoon:
It has come to our attention that there are news reports of an incident that occurred last week in Eitzen regarding a confrontation with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) surveyors that were conducting COVID 19 surveys and volunteer testing.
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office is now aware that allegations have been made, but at this point cannot confirm or deny the allegations. Unfortunately, we have little additional information at this point other than what has been reported by the news media apparently through MDH. We have requested additional information from MDH but have not yet received the requested information.
While we have spoken with MDH personnel, the alleged victims have not contacted our office and at this point we are aware of their identities and have not spoken with them directly.
Obviously the allegations are concerning and wish the surveyors would have immediately reported the incident to law enforcement.
Houston County Sheriff’s Office
MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff says this is disappointing on multiple levels.
“Through the CASPER survey, we had hoped to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading in Minnesota and how it is affecting people,” Huff said. “That kind of understanding could have helped us improve multiple aspects of our response. We also know that some people disagree with the policies and the approaches taken at times. But there is a difference between disagreeing with a policy or an elected official and taking out frustrations on a public health person who is trying to do their job and help the community as best they can. The enemy is the virus, not each other.”
Huff said these incidents could have been a misunderstanding, but a pattern is developing where teams with people of color are reporting more incidents than teams comprised of only white members.
MDH did want to emphasize many teams had positive interactions with people, but due to the increased anxiety and overall uncertainty, the CDC decided to demobilize the entire team.