Minnesota health officials reported two days of increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations over the weekend as the pace of new coronavirus cases continues its increase.
Cases have been trending upward in Minnesota for several weeks, in all parts of the state — but especially in the Twin Cities suburbs. Minnesota had nearly 1,500 more active COVID-19 cases than it did in mid-June, according to data released Friday.
Last week, for the first time, the suburban counties of Dakota, Washington, Anoka, Scott and Carver had about as many new cases per capita as Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
In mid-June, the five suburban counties were averaging about 70 new cases per day. Over the past week, they averaged 132 new cases per day, a nearly 90 percent increase.
Hennepin and Ramsey counties have also seen an increase in cases, to an average over the past week of 193 new cases in a larger population. But that’s a smaller increase of around 60 percent from the central counties’ rate in mid-June.
Here are the latest coronavirus statistics:
42,281 cases confirmed (715 new) via 755,052 tests
1,502 deaths (3 new)
4,399 cases requiring hospitalization
251 people remain hospitalized; 123 in intensive care
36,582 patients no longer needing isolation
Statewide mask order weighed
Medical groups in Minnesota and the state Health Department continue to support a statewide mask-mandate as the cities Winona, Rochester and Mankato have become the latest cities to make such orders on a local level.
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Edina have also mandated mask-wearing in the cities’ public spaces. However, Gov. Tim Walz hasn’t gone as far as a mandate for the entire state. Last week, he said he is also concerned enough about a potential outbreak that he’s considering a statewide mask order.
On Monday night, the Duluth City Council is scheduled to take up the question of whether to require people to wear face coverings when they’re in public spaces.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit businesses or organizations from allowing people over the age of 10 inside their doors without wearing masks.
It includes an exemption for people who are “unable to wear face coverings for genuine medical reasons.” And it says people can take off face masks while eating or drinking at a restaurant.
Meatpacking hot spots remain
Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.
That includes Mower County in southeastern Minnesota, where there were 983 confirmed cases as of Sunday. Mower County is home to Hormel Foods and Quality Pork Processors. Both have been partnering with Mayo Clinic to ramp up employee testing.
While some of Mower County’s positive cases are associated with people who work in the facilities and with the people they live with, county officials say they are also seeing transmission among people who live in the county but work in other counties where coronavirus is present.
Nobles, in southwestern Minnesota, reported 1,688 confirmed cases as of Sunday with six deaths, the same as Thursday. About 1 in 13 people now have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began, although the count of new cases has slowed considerably in recent weeks.
Worthington’s massive JBS pork processing plant was the epicenter of the Nobles outbreak. The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.
Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May. An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus.
There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Sunday, confirmed cases were at 2,523 with 19 deaths.
Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also dealing with a significant caseload more than two months after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus.
As of Sunday, the Health Department reported 593 people have now tested positive in the county. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases in late April.
Cases have also climbed noticeably in Lyon County (344 cases), around a turkey processor in Marshall. Cases the past few weeks have also grown in Cottonwood County (141 cases), home to a pork processing plant in Windom in southern Minnesota, but the counts there have since stabilized.
Developments from around the state
Bar-driven outbreak reported in Rochester
Olmsted County public health officials say they’ve identified more than 25 cases of coronavirus among people bar-hopping in downtown Rochester.
Public health officials are asking people who went to bars in downtown Rochester between June 26 and July 7 get tested for coronavirus.
Officials said they have identified a cluster of cases that they can’t pin to any specific bar because those who tested positive went to multiple locations. They said that the cases so far have involved alcohol consumption, and no mask-wearing or social distancing.
One bar, Dooley’s Pub, closed down last week after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
Public health officials say there’s been an uptick in cases teens and 20-year-olds in recent weeks. Meanwhile, state public health officials have been tracking similar clusters in other parts of Minnesota, including Mankato, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.
— Catharine Richert | MPR News
Survey signals support for returning kids to school
An informal, nonscientific survey of Minnesotan families shows 64 percent of those responding indicating they’d feel comfortable sending their students back into school buildings this fall.
Less than 12 percent said they would not feel comfortable sending their kids back to school. Most cited concerns about public health as the reason, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The agency said it collected more than 130,000 completed responses between June 15 and July 6. State officials are expected to announce plans for the 2020-21 public school year no later than the week of July 27.
— MPR News Staff
Long-term care opens doors to outside caregivers after months of COVID-19 closures: The Minnesota Department of Health put out new guidance Friday that allows residents to designate one person, identified as an “essential caregiver,” to visit inside the residence and to have physical contact with them. What is your family planning to do under the new guidance? Share your story with us here.
Unscientific survey shows most MN families want in-person school, despise distance learning: A new survey from the Minnesota Department of Education shows a majority of families had a bad experience with distance learning and want schools to resume in-person classes in the fall. But the results are just a sampling — and hardly scientific.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based off Minnesota Department of Health cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.