MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health warned that informal gatherings are becoming a weak spot in the state’s fight against COVID-19

Kris Ehresmann, MDH’s director of infectious diseases, says the department doesn’t currently collect data on whether the transmission happens indoors or outdoors — but there’s a big worry about what happens when cold weather arrives.

READ MORE: 1 Killed, 1 Injured In St. Paul Shooting

“That’s one of the concerns that we have is if we’re not really attentive to the details when we can be outside and in a good situation, what’s going to happen when we’re stuck inside?” Ehresmann said. “When we’ve talked about the value of the outdoors, people have taken that to mean that outdoors are somehow safe and without risk. That’s not the case.”

READ MORE: MDH Announces Crackdown On Non-Compliant Bars, Restaurants Over COVID-19

Research has shown people are less likely to transmit COVID outdoors because of airflow, sunlight and more space. But experts like Dr. Kumi Smith, assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, says it’s hard to measure exactly how much.

READ MORE: Richfield Police Seek Help After Thief Steals Car With Owner's Dog Inside

“We’ve seen a lot of these super-spreader cases. Most of those cases to date have been from indoors settings, and I think that’s the kind of evidence we’re using to compare the risk of indoor versus outdoor,” Smith said.

One study from Japan found the odds are almost 20 times higher to transmit COVID-19 inside over outside.

With worries about community transmission in Minnesota, health officials want to remind people that simply being outside won’t fully protect them.

“If people aren’t social distancing, if they’re not wearing a mask … being outside isn’t sufficient to overcome that,” Ehresmann said.

MORE NEWS: Twin Cities Thai Restaurant Hires Robot Server Amid Staffing Shortage

She recommends that if people do gather outside, wear masks to enter the space and then remove them once people are six feet apart.

Heather Brown