Sept. 11 update on COVID-19 in MN: 13 deaths; moderate new case growth continues

Samples are tested for COVID-19.
Mayo Clinic collects specimen for COVID-19 testing in Rochester, Minn., in March.
Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Updated 2:19 p.m.

The newest Minnesota Health Department numbers show some potentially hopeful trends in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday marked a fourth day of relatively moderate new case growth for COVID-19 in Minnesota, with another 484 infections reported.

With low testing numbers reported the past few days, it wasn’t clear if this was evidence of an encouraging trend or the product of Labor Day weekend reporting delays or some other data issue.

Friday’s data release, though, showed a significant jump in testing reported from the prior days — without an accompanying spike in new cases. If this proves to be more than a one-day outlier, it could suggest a real decline in new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota.

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Two closely watched metrics — the number of people currently in the hospital due to COVID-19 and the subset needing intensive care — stayed roughly stable: 253 are hospitalized with 139 in ICUs.

The September trend so far is down from August, when there were about 300 people in the hospital daily, on average, during the month. It’s not clear, though, if it’s evidence of an ongoing decline in hospital needs or a statistical anomaly.

Current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

The potentially hopeful news on cases and hospitalizations Friday was tempered by the fact that 13 more Minnesotans have died from the disease.

Of the 82,716 confirmed cases of the disease in the pandemic to date, about 92 percent of those identified have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

With the deaths reported Thursday, Minnesota’s toll has reached 1,897 in the pandemic. Among those who’ve died, about 73 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.

Lyon County wedding is state’s largest social spreader event

The newest numbers come a day after state officials renewed their concerns that backyard parties, informal get-togethers and social functions to start the school year are fueling the latest COVID-19 case counts.

On Thursday, they declared a late-August wedding in southwestern Minnesota as the state’s largest social spreader event to date.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Some 300 people attended the wedding and reception in Ghent, in Lyon County, on Aug. 22. There are now 75 COVID-19 cases scattered over 14 counties directly tied to that wedding, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Thursday.

One person has been hospitalized. The median age of those infected from the wedding is 25; the age range runs from 10 to 84 years old.

“This is the largest event we’ve seen pertaining to disease transmission for a social event,” Ehresmann said.

Many of those at the wedding worked in health care and education, but the department hasn’t yet identified any cases of secondary spread, she added.

College campus worries rise

State health authorities remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus.

People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 19,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 11,000 among people ages 20-24.

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

They’ve been driving the recent outbreaks, although the number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, topping 7,500 total cases for children 15 to 19 years old since the pandemic began.

The reality of those worries came into focus Tuesday as Winona State University announced an immediate 14-day campus quarantine that will limit all nonessential activities on campus for the next two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations and could also hamper attempts to reopen campuses completely to in-person teaching.

There are 236 cases tied to Winona State.

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

Officials are also concerned about case clusters around Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead.

The state is working with colleges now on strategies. While a natural response might be to shut down campuses and send students home, that risks dispersing infections even wider, Ehresmann told reporters Wednesday.

About one-third of new cases in Minnesota are now coming from community spread of unknown origin — higher than just before the Fourth of July, the last major holiday that brought Minnesotans together.

Regionally, the Twin Cities and suburbs had been driving the counts of newly reported cases. Recent data, though, show cases have been climbing in northern and central Minnesota.

Friday’s data, though, showed new case counts retreating across the state.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Still, the number of active, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota remains at around 6,000 cases on a seven-day average.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Positive ‘glimmers’

Separately, Gov. Tim Walz told MPR News on Friday that there were some positive "glimmers" in data points that could make it possible to ease some more restrictions on daily life if they hold true.

The governor said his goal was to "open businesses as quickly and safely as we can and keep them open."

Asked what it would take for him to lift the peacetime emergency around COVID-19 — powers that GOP leaders have demanded he stop using — Walz said if experts at the Mayo Clinic told him the public health threat has passed, he'd be more comfortable doing so.

The governor Friday extended his peacetime emergency by 30 more days.

Developments around the state

MN House committee focuses on COVID-19 racial disparities

Top lawmakers in the Minnesota House are looking at the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

Members of the House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding met Wednesday to discuss the issue. DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, the chair of the committee, said there are significant racial health disparities in the state.

“I have a feeling that our policy work will continue to be heavily COVID-focused. And whether it is continuing to exist with the virus or building back better, we need to learn as much as we can about what’s going on and what the prognosis is for the future,” Hortman said.

The select committee began its work in May and meets monthly. Past meetings have focused on the pandemic’s impact on health care workers and on the economy.

— Tim Pugmire | MPR News

MN education commissioner: Keep ill kids home

With the school year starting for many students Tuesday, state K-12 education officials also implored families and teachers to stay home when they are sick.

Many students are back in the classroom while others are distance learning at home.

"I have been that parent, trying to decide whether my child is too sick to send to school so that I can get to work,” Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said Tuesday as she urged parents to continue to limit contact with others and wear masks to help limit COVID-19 in schools.

“I have been that teacher worried about the burden on my colleagues that there isn't a substitute,” she added. “I am urging you to please stay home when you are sick, keep your child home when you are sick this year."

Officials say out of the districts and charter schools that have reported their learning models, nearly two-thirds are opening the school year with a hybrid approach, and a quarter are doing full-time in person. The rest are starting with distance learning.

— MPR News Staff

Top headlines

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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.