Aug. 12 update on COVID-19 in MN: 12 more deaths; total cases top 62K

A person wearing a face shield, mask and gown holds a swab.
From left, nursing assistant Shenetta Blanchard and registered nurse Gao Nou Vang administer COVID-19 tests Aug. 7 at the drive-thru or walk-up testing site at North Memorial Health Specialty Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Updated: 5:22 p.m.

Wednesday’s count of new COVID-19 cases showed another day of moderate increases, but testing remained low making it hard to judge if the latest reports are evidence of a meaningful shift or a statistical blip.

The Health Department reported 470 new confirmed cases of the disease. The number of daily deaths (12) crossed into double digits for the first time since early July.

While current hospitalizations (335) and the number needing intensive care (154) remain far lower than their late-May peak, they’ve shown an upward swing the past few weeks — along with a stubborn persistence. It’s the 13th consecutive day with 300 or more current hospitalizations, a pattern not seen since mid to late June.

Current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

Of the 62,303 cases confirmed since the pandemic began, nearly 90 percent have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.

Among the 1,678 who’ve died from the disease, about 75 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living.

Cases grow among youth, up north

Worries continue 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.

New Minnesota COVID-19 cases by age, adjusted for population

People in their 20s remain the age group with the highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the pandemic — more than 14,500.

The past few days of data show Minnesotans younger than age 20 have been running close to 20-somethings for most new cases.

The median age of Minnesotans who are confirmed infected is 36. That’s been trending down in recent weeks.

Regionally, the Twin Cities and its suburbs have been driving the counts of newly reported cases. But the disease is present in all parts of the state, including the north, which had largely avoided the outbreak until recently.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Several of the state’s fastest-growing outbreaks relative to population are in northern Minnesota. Beltrami County, home to Bemidji, has seen a steady climb the past few weeks. The county reported 249 cases as of Wednesday.

MN counties with the fastest per-capita growth in COVID-19 cases

Meatpacking operations had been hot spots for big outbreaks in southwest, west-central and central Minnesota earlier in the pandemic.

New cases have slowed considerably in recent weeks, although recent cases have also included tests from workers around the Seneca Foods plant in McLeod County, where more than 20 employees have been identified in an outbreak in Glencoe.

‘We are all connected’

Wednesday’s counts will come two days after Minnesota health officials, increasingly concerned over reports of despondent residents in long-term care, rolled out new guidance designed to open the door wider to visitors.

“Loneliness, depression, isolation and heartbreak are all safety issues,” Aisha Elmquist, the state’s deputy ombudsman for long-term care, told reporters Monday as she and other public health leaders answered questions around the latest COVID-19 data.

“Everyone needs others,” she added, “including those who live in long-term care settings.”

Most of the people who’ve died from COVID-19 in Minnesota had been living in long-term care. That toll is one of the reasons long-term care has faced steep visitor restrictions.

In early May, the Walz administration unveiled a “battle plan” to safeguard Minnesotans living in long-term care facilities, including expanded testing, more personal protective gear for health workers and a promise to maintain “adequate” staffing when workers fall ill.

It helped drive daily death counts down to mostly single digits. Now, though, officials worry those gains may slip away as COVID-19 ripples across the state.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

They said they’re seeing new cases tied to long-term care facilities that they believe are being driven largely by community spread and brought in inadvertently by facility staff as restrictions on daily life loosen and people return to indoor gathering spaces and attend family events.

The big-picture situation in long-term care is “quite positive,” Jan Malcolm said Monday, noting that 90 percent of assisted living facilities in Minnesota and 71 percent of skilled nursing homes have had no cases of COVID-19 in the past 28 days.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Still, state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield urged people to stay vigilant against the spread of the disease — wearing masks in indoor gathering places, social distancing and washing hands — and warned that the work to limit spread among vulnerable populations was at risk as people return to public spaces.

“This is fragile and we are very concerned that the progress we have made can be at risk, and can even be lost, if we let up on our precautions,” she said Monday. “We need everyone in Minnesota to be doing their part to limit transmission. We are all connected to each other.”

Developments from around the state

COVID-19 peacetime emergency extended for another 30 days

The peacetime emergency that Gov. Tim Walz has used to manage Minnesota’s coronavirus response will last at least another 30 days.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the state Executive Council extended his authority. It gives the Walz administration power to spend money and issue directives without running them past the Legislature first.

“While obviously a great deal has changed since March, some things remain the same, which is we are very much in the middle of the active pandemic and require rapid actions to do our best to keep this epidemic under control,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

Republican legislators argue the Walz powers have been in place for too long and should be reined in. Walz first declared the health emergency in March.

— Brian Bakst | MPR News

No Labor Day fireworks in Duluth

Duluth has canceled its fireworks display that was scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

The city and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center had postponed the Fourth of July fireworks until Labor Day due to COVID-19 concerns. But Mayor Emily Larson said circumstances have not improved enough to hold the fireworks celebration.

Last year, 10,000 people watched the fireworks from Bayfront Park in Duluth. Current state guidelines allow for a maximum 250 people at indoor and outdoor events.

— Dan Kraker | MPR News

St. Peter pool closed after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

A southern Minnesota city cut its pool season short after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.

St. Peter, Minn., city officials posted on its Facebook page that one of their pool employees tested positive for COVID-19. The Roy T. Lindenberg Memorial Pool immediately ended its season.

The city said exposure risk was low because of the safety measures that were in place to reduce spreading the virus.

The public outdoor pool opened for the season just a little over a month ago.

— Hannah Yang | MPR News

Top headlines

Behind the numbers: What does a COVID-19 ‘positivity rate’ really mean?: One of the most important metrics for tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota is the “positivity rate” — or how prevalent positive cases of the disease are, when compared to the number of tests being done. Our data reporter takes a deep dive in explaining what’s behind the number.

Interest in homeschooling has 'exploded' amid pandemic: Some are worried their districts are unable to offer a strong virtual learning program. For others who may have been considering homeschooling, concerns for their family's health amid the coronavirus and the on-again, off-again planning for in-person instruction are leading them to part ways with school systems.

Big Ten postpones football, other fall sports over coronavirus concerns: The Big Ten said it would “continue to evaluate a number of options,” including possibly playing football and other fall sports in the spring. Later Tuesday, the Pac-12 Conference said it was canceling its fall football season.

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.

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