MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the subzero temperatures continue, many Minnesotans are dreaming of a warm escape — and health experts are worried about a possible rise in COVID-19 cases with more travel.

There were 779 new cases of COVID-19 reported by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on Sunday. The positivity rate is below 3%, which is the lowest it’s been since last summer.

Blaine resident Shelby Smith and her family of four are in Florida this week. It was their family’s first time flying in a year.

“I felt overall pretty safe. It was the flying, though, I mean, that’s the one thing that they can’t really, they can’t really change,” Smith said.

She has been working from home full time and doing distance learning with her two young children during the pandemic. She says they ultimately decided to go on vacation for their mental health.

(credit: CBS)

“Only seeing those same four walls really did … give us that kind of urge to ‘Let’s go to some warmer weather,’” Smith said.

Health officials have urged people to stay home this winter. Jan Malcolm is MDH’s commissioner.

“As tempting as it is, especially with these temperatures, it’s still really not a great idea to travel,” Malcolm said.

MDH’s Kris Ehresmann says the virus is still in high circulation throughout different parts of the country, and there is concern that the COVID variants, which are more contagious, will spread further as Spring Break approaches.

“The more transmission there is, the more opportunities there are for mutations and development of variants of concern,” Ehresmann said.

More than 1 million people traveled by air on Friday in the United States. That’s the most since the days immediately following the end of the holiday season. Still, that number is down by almost 1.5 million passengers compared to the same day last year.

Kate Raddatz