Updated: 8:53 p.m.
Minnesota health officials on Monday reported three more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state total to 1,474 but continuing a two-week trend of days with deaths mostly in single digits.
Intensive care cases (125) also remained relatively flat at late-April levels even as overall current hospitalizations (258) rose from Sunday.
Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the largest age group of confirmed cases — more than 8,300 since the pandemic began. The median age for cases has been dipping and is now just under 39 years old.
Young adults heading back into public indoor spaces have become a particular concern for state officials who continue to implore people to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautions when venturing outside home.
Health investigators last week probed new clusters of Minnesota cases focused around bars in Mankato and Minneapolis.
While young people with COVID-19 may not feel its worst effects, “this is an infectious disease, and they can spread it to people who may not do as well,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist, told reporters Monday.
Of the 38,569 confirmed since the pandemic began, about 88 percent of people infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Among those who’ve died, nearly 80 percent were living in long-term care or assisted living facilities, nearly all had underlying health problems.
Walz eyeing statewide mask mandate
As several U.S. states mandated mask-wearing statewide amid the recent upticks in new cases, Gov. Tim Walz last week said he is concerned enough about potential outbreaks that he’s considering a statewide mask order.
While he didn’t give an indication on when he’d decide, the governor said such a move would offer public health benefits while helping businesses that are struggling to enforce their own mask rules.
A few Minnesota cities have mandated mask-wearing in the cities’ public spaces, and several more are considering a similar measure. Medical groups in Minnesota and the state Health Department said they are backing a statewide mandate.
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 952 confirmed cases as of Monday.
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 1,669 confirmed cases Monday with six deaths. 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 Monday, confirmed cases were at 2,371 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 Monday, the Health Department reported 573 people have now tested positive in the county, the same as Sunday. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases in late April.
Cases have also climbed noticeably in Lyon County (316 cases), around a turkey processor in Marshall. Cases the past few weeks have also grown in Cottonwood County (136 cases), home to a pork processing plant in Windom, but the counts there have stabilized.
Correction (July 6, 2020): An earlier version of this story misstated the total number of current hospitalizations.
Developments from around the state
Rochester, Mankato pass citywide mask mandate
The Rochester City Council approved a new citywide mandate Monday that will require masks in indoor facilities. The rule goes into effect on Wednesday.
The mandate, which passed by a 6-to-1 council vote, applies to places like indoor restaurant and bar seating, gyms, public transportation and retail. The new rule comes as state public health officials are tracking clusters of cases associated with bar-hopping, and as cases spike among younger people in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Last week, Rochester approved a new rule that requires masks in city buildings.
Mankato's City Council also passed a similar ordinance Monday night as cases among young people who caught the virus while bar-hopping have spiked.
The ordinance, which goes into effect on Friday, July 10, will require people over the age 13 to wear a face mask in public spaces. It specifically lists places such as retail stores, service establishments and city government buildings. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor. Any further violations can result in a $200 penalty.
— Catharine Richert and Hannah Yang | MPR News
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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.