Sept. 20 update on COVID-19 in MN: State sees record number of newly confirmed cases

A sign on a door reads "Have you completed the COVID-19 self-assessment"
A sign notes coronavirus-related guidelines on the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus in Moorhead, Minn.
Matt Mikus | MPR News file

Minnesota health officials reported a record daily increase of 1,318 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing the state's total past 90,000.

Minnesota also saw two more COVID-19 deaths, and a slight increase in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. The number of those patients bring treated in ICUs dropped.

Sunday's report from the Minnesota Department of Health saw another high number of test results — more than 20,000 for the fourth consecutive day.

But the number of test results reported Sunday dropped by more than 1,000 from the previous day — while the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by nearly 400. That suggests the record high number of new cases isn't just a result of increased testing.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

It comes as state officials have been on the lookout for a possible increase in cases tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings two weeks ago — about the length of time when any spread of the coronavirus at those gatherings would start showing up in test results.

The state saw a jump in cases following the July Fourth holiday. Officials also worry about a one-two punch this fall and winter from COVID-19 and the typical flu season.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 1,965 deaths (2 new)

  • 90,017 confirmed cases (1,318 new); 81,336 off isolation

  • 248 still hospitalized, 123 in ICUs

  • 1,838,392 tests, 1,303,475 people tested

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Health Department investigators last week started going door-to-door in randomly selected neighborhoods in the Twin Cities and southeastern Minnesota as part of a statewide study to find out where COVID-19 is more prevalent.

They’ll ask questions about where people spend time, whether anyone in the house has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and what information they'd like about the virus. They'll also offer free nasal swabs and serology tests.

‘We do not want that to happen here’

As it works to get Minnesotans to stay vigilant about COVID-19 and its spread, the Health Department is rolling out a monthlong push to boost testing in selected regions around the state to curb community spread of the coronavirus.

The agency is “deeply concerned” about the jump in community spread across Minnesota — cases where people don’t know how they contracted the disease, Dan Huff, an assistant state health commissioner, said earlier this week as he explained the need to boost testing efforts.

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

Minnesota is seeing cases leap in neighboring states, he added, and “we do not want that to happen here.”

Officials are also pushing ahead on education and enforcement efforts to ensure restaurant owners and patrons comply with the state’s masking and social distancing orders.

Current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

Huff added that investigators want compliance in the “most unobtrusive way possible” but that owners and customers had a responsibility to follow the rules.

“This is a serious disease. We know that,” he said. “There’s no vaccine. There’s no cure, and it’s contagious. Everyone needs to do their part.”

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

College campus worries rise

People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — topping 20,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 11,500 infections among people ages 20-24.

The numbers help explain why experts remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus.

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.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

They’ve been driving the recent outbreaks, although the number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 8,100 total cases among children 15 to 19 years old since the pandemic began.

Winona State University is in the middle of a 14-day campus quarantine that will limit all nonessential activities on campus to slow the spread of COVID-19. Winona State on Wednesday reported a current total of 125 active positive cases and 294 since late August.

Regionally, southern and central Minnesota and the Twin Cities suburbs have driven much of the increase in new cases while Hennepin and Ramsey counties show some of the slowest case growth in the state.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

Hot spots have included southwestern Minnesota, where 75 cases have been traced to a late-August wedding in Lyon County that officials describe now as the state’s largest single social spreader event.

On Monday, Minnesota officials also confirmed an outbreak of 122 cases at the federal women’s prison in Waseca, which they said began when federal authorities transferred people into the facility from outside the state who had COVID-19.

Developments around the state

Virus spread shifts the school guidance map

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota continues to change school reopening recommendations around the state.

The most recent batch of recommendations, released Thursday, cover cases from Aug. 23 to Sept. 5 — a period that happened to see a late-August spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The result? A full 25 counties saw their COVID-19 case counts slip past one of the Health Department’s thresholds, changing their recommendation toward more distance learning for more students.

School reopening guidance as of Sept. 17 by Minnesota county

In the most recent update, six counties are recommended to have all students do full-time distance learning: Blue Earth, Lyon, Stevens, Waseca, Winona and Yellow Medicine counties. All but Waseca County were previously recommended to allow at least some in-person learning.

Not every county got worse. Eleven counties saw their case rates improve compared to last week’s results, and saw their recommendation shift to more in-person learning.

Overall, 24 largely rural counties have a recommendation of in-person for all students.

A formula produced by the Health Department generates the guidance for districts to help decide whether to have in-person learning, distance learning, or a mix, based on the rate of COVID-19 cases in that district’s county over a two-week period.

These recommendations are only considered the starting point for school districts, which make their own learning plans in cooperation with the Health Department.

New COVID-19 cases over the period used for school reopening guidance
New COVID-19 cases, by the date the sample was taken, over the two-week period used for school reopening guidance.

Minnesota’s yo-yoing COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks have meant some drastic swings in school districts’ safe learning recommendations, but state health officials say they’re taking the data irregularities into account when working with schools to set learning plans.

Because Minnesota’s calculation uses weeks-old data and calculates cases by the day a person got tested rather than the day the tests were reported, this update is not affected by recent reporting delays caused by the Labor Day weekend.

— David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Top headlines

Election Day voting in Minnesota starts now: Election administrators, political party leaders and campaign officials suspect a lot of voters will cast ballots early this year. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic still has people jittery about standing in lines.

Statewide testing push seeks to stem COVID-19 transmission: State health officials are launching a monthlong statewide testing effort aimed to stem transmission of the virus. The pop-up testing clinics will start the week of Sept. 21 and testing is free and available to anyone, including those who don’t have insurance.

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.

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