July 11 update on COVID-19 in MN: More than 800 new cases reported in state

A person wearing personal protective equipment stands at a car window
Nurse Amanda Hitchings uses a swab to take a sample for COVID-19 testing at a curbside collection facility on May 6 at St. Cloud Hospital.
Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times

Updated: 11:28 a.m.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota jumped by more than 800 on Saturday — the biggest single-day increase in seven weeks.

Saturday's update from the Minnesota Department of Health reported 806 new, confirmed cases. That's the second-greatest single-day total on record in the state, behind 840 cases reported on May 23 — though testing has increased greatly since late May.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota
New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Minnesota reported four more deaths from COVID-19, all people who lived in long-term care facilities.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota increased to 241 on Saturday, up from 227 in Friday's report — though still lower than the 251 reported on Thursday. The number of those patients being treated in ICUs dropped from 124 to 121 in Saturday's report.

Around 5 percent of Minnesota’s more than 16,000 newly reported tests were positive Saturday. That’s a metric that health officials watch closely to see how widespread the disease is. The 5 percent figure is an increase from rates between 2.5 and 4 percent in mid June, when cases were declining. But it’s far below the state’s peak of more than 16 percent in May.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive
Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Cases have been trending upward in Minnesota for several weeks, in all parts of the state — but especially in the Twin Cities suburbs. Minnesota now has nearly 1,500 more active COVID-19 cases than it did in mid-June, according to data released Friday.

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Earlier this 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.

Asked Friday about the growing presence of COVID-19 cases in the suburbs, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said that while officials are seeing increases tied to bars and restaurants reopening and to house party activity in places like Edina, there was no single “hot spot answer” explaining the suburban surge.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

In mid-June, the five suburban counties were averaging about 70 new cases per day. Over the past week, they’ve 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.

Also Friday, Ehresmann acknowledged that national laboratories were seeing delays in getting test results back to people, but she implored Minnesotans with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and wait for the results before going out in public and possibly infecting others.

She also noted that the Health Department is getting reports of some people seeking out COVID-19 testing every couple of days.

“Testing is not a substitute for masking and social distancing,” Ehresmann told reporters. While health officials are encouraging people to get a test, “getting tested over and over again is not necessarily an appropriate use of that resource.”

Here are the latest coronavirus statistics

  • 41,571 cases confirmed (806 new) via 742,095 tests

  • 1,499 deaths (4 new)

  • 4,366 cases requiring hospitalization

  • 241 people remain hospitalized; 121 in intensive care

  • 36,012 patients no longer needing isolation

Statewide mask order weighed

Winona, Rochester and Mankato this week became the latest Minnesota cities to order citywide mask mandates to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The city mandates will require people to wear a mask in public indoor spaces. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Edina have also mandated mask-wearing in the cities’ public spaces.

Gov. Tim Walz last week said he is also concerned enough about a potential outbreak that he’s considering a statewide mask order. Medical groups in Minnesota and the state Health Department support a statewide order.

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 974 confirmed cases as of Friday. 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.

A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status.

Nobles, in southwestern Minnesota, reported 1,676 confirmed cases Friday 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 Friday, confirmed cases were at 2,481 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 Friday, the Health Department reported 587 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 (332 cases), around a turkey processor in Marshall. Cases the past few weeks have also grown in Cottonwood County (138 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

Top headlines

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.