Updated: 2:40 p.m.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 data again offers a mixed bag of hopeful and concerning news. Wednesday’s Health Department numbers show daily deaths remain in the single digits, with the number of people currently hospitalized dipping after trending up for weeks.
Still, those current hospitalizations (305) stayed above 300 for the sixth straight day and ICU cases (152) remain up compared to a month ago.
While current hospitalizations remain far lower than their late-May peak, they’ve shown an upward swing the past few weeks even as the daily growth in new cases flattened.
Of the 57,779 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, about 89 percent of those infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Among the 1,629 Minnesotans who’ve died, about 76 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm called on Minnesotans Wednesday to make sure they and any children in their care are up to date on vaccinations. She noted that vaccinations among kids had dropped during the COVID-19 outbreak, although the situation has improved recently.
“It’s going to be so critical for Minnesotans to get their flu shots this fall” so that the health care system isn’t overwhelmed by flu and “what we expect to be additional cases of COVID-19 this fall,” she added.
Cases growing across age brackets, up north
Worries remain about the growth of COVID-19 among younger Minnesotans, including that those infected will inadvertently spread the virus to grandparents and other more vulnerable people.
“Consider all the roles you play” in all daily interactions, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, cautioned last week. People who might not worry about themselves should worry about infecting vulnerable family members and coworkers, she added.
Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the age group with the most confirmed cases in the pandemic — nearly 13,500.
The median age of Minnesotans infected has been trending down in recent weeks and is now 36 years old.
Regionally, the Twin Cities and its suburbs have been driving the newly reported cases.
The seven-county Twin Cities metro area represents more than two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and has accounted for a disproportionate share of the state’s cases since mid-May when southern Minnesota’s meatpacking hot spots were surging.
But the disease is present in all parts of the state, including the north, which had largely avoided the outbreak until recently.
Northern Minnesota is now seeing about the same number of new cases per capita as hard-hit southern Minnesota.
Cases in Beltrami County, home to Bemidji, have more than doubled in the past two weeks, increasing to 207 as of Wednesday. Most of the counties seeing a jump in case growth relative to their population are in northern and central Minnesota.
Meatpacking operations had been hot spots for big outbreaks in southwest, west-central and central Minnesota earlier in the pandemic, but new cases have slowed considerably in recent weeks.
The case increases the past few week in Minnesota have caught the attention of the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who in a Monday interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association named Minnesota among a handful of states that should reconsider reimposing some restrictions given the trends.
Mayo Clinic plasma treatments ‘encouraging’
News reports the past couple of days have cited research from Mayo Clinic showing early success in a national study treating COVID-19 patients with transfusions of blood plasma containing antibodies of recovered patients.
Mayo’s research on such convalescent plasma “is really encouraging,” Malcolm said. “I know that they’re enthused about it.”
Worries over Sturgis
State health officials are also warning that the upcoming Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota could be a potential petri dish for spreading the virus here and across the nation.
The nine-day event is expected to attract more than 250,000 riders and their friends from around the country to the Black Hills starting Friday, which is causing Minnesota health leaders to worry about the disease making its way back here.
Malcolm on Wednesday reiterated those concerns, saying she was disappointed South Dakota had OK’d the Sturgis rally this year given that the state is seeing a significant surge in cases and the rally would be attracting people from around the country, including places with climbing COVID-19 rates.
The Sturgis rally, she said, will be a “pretty ripe environment for further spread.”
The length of the rally from Friday through Aug. 16, will mean prolonged exposure for many, and the long-distance travel by many riders means they may carry the virus home and touch off other outbreaks, Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told MPR News Monday.
“Come mid-August to late August, early September,” Osterholm said, “Sturgis will have one hell of an imprint on this country.”
Malcolm on Wednesday said those headed for Sturgis should watch for symptoms and perhaps even get tested for COVID-19 five to seven days afterward even without symptoms.
Self-quarantining, she added, “would be really prudent and really thoughtful thing to do.”
Developments from around the state
First coronavirus cases confirmed on Fond du Lac reservation
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has confirmed the first two coronavirus cases on its reservation in northeast Minnesota.
The Fond du Lac Health and Human Services Division has reported three positive cases so far — two live in the same household on the reservation near Cloquet, Minn.; and the third tested positive in Duluth.
In a Facebook live message to the band's 4,200 members, Fond du Lac Chairman Kevin Dupuis said the virus has now made it across the reservation's borders.
"So I’m asking all our community members — all of our employees, Indian and non-Indian — that we need to be really vigilant about this,” Dupuis said. “And we really need to take concern and care to understand the importance of this."
Dupuis urged band members to wear masks, practice social distancing and answer the phone. The band is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health to do contact tracing on the positive cases.
— Dan Kraker | MPR News
MN State Fair launches marketplace, competitions online
The Minnesota State Fair is adding virtual merchandise stands to the food parade it has planned in lieu of a real fair this year. The fair announced Tuesday that it is launching an online marketplace with more than 200 vendors.
The usual selection of gifts, gadgets, crafts, decor, tools and apparel are all listed on the fair’s website, with links to the websites of traditional fair vendors. They are planning discounts and sales through the end of 2020.
The fair also announced four online competitions, including cookie decorating, crop art, and photography by K-12 students. Quilting has a competition too, but the quilts must be no larger than 8 inches by 9 inches and mounted on a paint stir stick.
The fair is also holding its annual fine arts show on the fairgrounds, starting Sept. 7. But alas, there’s still no fair — it’s been canceled this year due to the coronavirus.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
Valleyfair to stay shut in 2020
Valleyfair will remain closed for the remainder of the year amid ongoing concerns around COVID-19.
“With the diminishing number of calendar days left in the 2020 operating season, as well as limited visibility from state and local officials as to when a park opening is possible, the decision has been made to remain closed,” the Shakopee, Minn., amusement park said in a statement Tuesday.
Park officials said they’ll continue to work with state authorities to ensure guests can return safely next season.
— MPR News Staff
During COVID-19, a growing interest in recycling food waste at home: With interest in organics recycling programs growing, the pandemic has highlighted Minnesota’s need for more compost sites to handle food waste.
Lawsuit challenges Minnesota's mask mandate: A lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court is challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota’s mask mandate. A group of Republican lawmakers and voters, including the watchdog group Minnesota Voters Alliance, is suing Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison and other officials. They want the mask requirement halted ahead of next week’s primary election.
Minnesota high school football, volleyball seasons pushed to spring: The Minnesota State High School League on Tuesday backed a plan to move high school football and volleyball to spring seasons this year while other fall sports maintain modified schedules in response to COVID-19.
Primary election amid pandemic sets stage for November: Minnesota voters will finalize November’s ballot in the Aug. 11 primary election. The first statewide election amid the pandemic will look different than voters are accustomed to, and election officials are preaching patience.
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.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.