State public health leaders are expected to brief reporters at 3 p.m.
Updated 11:50 a.m.
Minnesota officials on Monday reported another 22 COVID-19 deaths, continuing an already dreadful December. But other key metrics are showing definite signs of hope.
New daily caseloads and hospital admissions continue to retreat from their late November, early December peaks.
The Health Department posted 1,998 newly confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases — the lowest count since late October, part of more than a week of relatively moderate new caseloads. Officials expected a surge originating from Thanksgiving gatherings, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The number of active, confirmed cases in Minnesota is down to around 21,000, the lowest since Nov. 4.
The agency said 1,040 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Sunday, with 237 needing intensive care. While that’s still fairly high, the seven-day trend for new hospital admissions has dropped to levels not seen since early November.
The rate of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — a metric that officials use to judge the level of virus spread in the state — continues to pull back. The seven-day positive rate trend is at about 6.7 percent, down more than half from its recent peak. A rate of 5 percent or more is considered concerning.
State health officials have warned that the improving picture could change dramatically if people don’t stay vigilant as year-end holidays approach. They continue to implore people to wear masks in outdoor gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The cases reported Monday put Minnesota at 399,311 in the pandemic. Of those, about 93 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The deaths reported Monday raised Minnesota’s toll to 4,872. Among those who’ve died, about 65 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
The toll remains awful. Some 2,400 COVID-19 deaths have been reported during November and December. That’s half of all the deaths in the pandemic that started back in March.
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 76,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 40,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 31,000 total cases among children 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 grandparents and other vulnerable populations.
It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
New cases ebb in rural Minnesota
Central and western Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases over the past two months, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.
After a spike in confirmed cases through much of November and early December, all regions of the state have seen new case numbers fall.
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 peak a few weeks ago, 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.
Developments around the state
Judge denies motion for injunction against Walz’s executive order
A federal judge has denied an effort to place an injunction on Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order limiting social gatherings and youth sports during the pandemic.
The parents’ group called Let Them Play MN filed the suit against the state and sought the preliminary injunction, and said it is appealing Friday’s ruling.
While the group’s focus is youth sports, they claimed in court that Walz’s order violated their constitutional right to protest, including the right to free speech.
The suit claimed the restrictions in the executive order were arbitrary and irrational, and not based on science.
In denying the motion for an injunction, Judge John Tunheim wrote Friday that the executive order’s “prohibition on social gatherings has nothing to do with any message that might be conveyed at such gatherings. Rather, the prohibition has the singular intent of curbing the spread of COVID-19. As such, (the order) is neutral on its face and is thus a content-neutral regulation.”
“No one is in favor of limiting cherished constitutional rights, nor should they be. But the State’s measured response, focused directly on the likely causes of the recent surge, satisfies judicial scrutiny,” Tunheim wrote. “It is hoped that the restrictions on public activity will prove successful and brief.”
In a statement posted online Saturday, Let Them Play MN said it has filed an appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to overturn Tunheim’s ruling. They also allege Tunheim has conflicts of interest and are seeking to have a new judge assigned to the case.
— MPR News Staff
Inmate at Faribault prison dies after COVID diagnosis
The Minnesota Department of Corrections reported Saturday that an inmate at the state prison in Faribault died after recently being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The 70-year-old man died early Saturday at a hospital in Faribault; his name has not been released. He’s the ninth state prison inmate to die after a COVID diagnosis — and the fifth at the Faribault prison.
The facility has more than 270 active COVID cases among its more than 1,700 inmates, along with more than 40 active cases among staff members.
The Department of Corrections says it’s working with state health officials on a plan for vaccinating inmates and staff when guidance comes from the federal government.
In addition to the nine deaths of inmates reported by the Department of Corrections, the Minnesota Department of Human Services has reported the deaths of two people in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at Moose Lake.
— MPR News Staff
Minnesota regulators cite more bars, restaurants for violating Walz order: Minnesota regulators on Saturday told three more establishments that they face 60-day liquor license suspensions for continuing indoor, in-person bar and restaurant service in violation of state pandemic rules.
Minn. Sen. Jerry Relph dies of COVID-19 complications: The first-term state senator from St. Cloud died Friday following a month-long hospitalization. He tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a post-election party with other Republican senators in November.
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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