After weeks of relatively positive data on COVID-19 caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths, it’s tempting to hope Minnesota is through the worst of the pandemic. But even as they applaud those positive trends, health officials believe the state may see another upswing soon.
Gov. Tim Walz said in mid-December that officials were worried about a February spike. On Monday, his health commissioner braced Minnesotans to expect to see daily death and case counts trending higher again following the year-end holidays.
“We do expect to see cases go back up in Minnesota following the year-end holidays, and potentially just as a result of the winter wearing on and more indoor time and more gatherings,” Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters.
While Monday’s data showed a low four deaths reported, “we’re not anticipating this signals a new trend necessarily,” she added, noting that those daily counts have fallen before only to rise again.
Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:
5,711 deaths (four new)
437,552 positive cases (980 new), 417,005 off isolation (95 percent)
6 million tests, 3.1 million people tested (about 54 percent of the population)
6.7 percent seven-day positive test rate (officials find 5 percent or more concerning)
Overall, Minnesota’s COVID-19 path remains hard to chart because of the reporting from those year-end holidays.
The Health Department said 686 people remained in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Sunday, with 141 needing intensive care. The seven-day trend of new hospital admissions fell to its lowest level since late October.
The cases reported Monday put Minnesota at 437,552 in the pandemic. Of those, about 95 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 5,711. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
State officials said that more than 147,000 Minnesotans have been vaccinated at this point. Minnesota’s been allocated nearly 400,000 doses, but Malcolm said that doesn’t mean all of the doses are in the state or available to those doing the vaccinations.
“Are we satisfied? No,” Malcolm said of the current pace of vaccinations. “We do expect these numbers to go up steadily from here. It was really only Friday of last week that we even started to get data from a week that didn’t have a major holiday or a blizzard in it.”
Caseloads spread across age groups
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 83,500 since the pandemic began, including more than 44,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 34,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.
It’s of particular concern because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
New cases spread across Minnesota
A relatively small bump in new cases is happening across the state.
Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.
Caseloads still heaviest among people of color
In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.
Even as new case counts ease from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows people of color continue to be hit hardest.
Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.
Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
COVID variant surfaces
Minnesota health officials had been watching for signs that a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus had entered the state — and over the weekend, they received confirmation.
The Health Department reported late Saturday that five people in the Twin Cities metro area had contracted the variant — and that it likely was more widespread across the state.
Officials say that while it’s thought to be more easily spread from one person to another, it has not been found to cause more serious disease.
The real threat of the new strain is a possible dramatic jump in the number of sick people, Michael Osterholm, head of the University of Minnesota’s Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Developments around the state
Minnesota tweaks phone alert system that tracks COVID
Minnesota is making some changes to the phone alert system it uses to help track COVID-19.
The change applies to many users of Apple’s iPhone. The state’s information technology agency, MNIT, said this weekend that users with newer operating systems will get a prompt that allows them to turn on exposure notifications, without using the separate COVID-19 app. It’s part of technology widely in use already, developed by Apple and Google, that can be incorporated into a phone’s operating system.
The service has all the same features as the app, using Bluetooth technology and randomly assigned numbers to detect others in close proximity, and later share anonymously if either party reports a positive COVID-19 test. The new version, like the app itself, does not collect individual information or track locations.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
10th Minnesota state prison inmate dies after COVID diagnosis
An inmate at the Minnesota prison in Faribault died Friday night at a Minneapolis hospital. Department of Corrections officials said he recently was diagnosed with COVID-19.
The 57-year-old man is the 10th COVID-related death of an inmate in the state prison system, and the sixth from the Faribault prison. The man’s name was not released.
Corrections officials said late Friday that three other inmates who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were in critical condition.
More than 10 percent of the nearly 1,700 inmates in the Faribault prison were positive for COVID-19 as of Friday.
Corrections officials said they’ve started to vaccinate prison health-care staff as well as inmates who are in long-term care settings, following state and federal vaccination guidelines.
— MPR News staff
As Minn. rolls through first round of vaccinations, some providers worry about being left out: Minnesota is inching toward the last phase of its initial COVID-19 vaccinations. But providers, like residential substance abuse treatment centers and mental health providers, say they’re still in the dark about when and where their staff will get the vaccine.
Minnesotans with disabilities wonder when they’ll get COVID-19 vaccine: As a group, people with disabilities often disproportionately suffer from the effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
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