Dec. 7 update on COVID-19 in MN: Key week as pandemic death toll tops 4K

Two people wearing face masks and other PPE stands at a car.
Nurses Brittany Mischel (left) and Missy Kersey organize testing kits on Dec. 2 at the HealthPartners winterized drive-up COVID-19 testing site in Bloomington, Minn.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Updated: 4 p.m.

From quarantining to vaccine news to evidence of a potential Thanksgiving surge, this will be a crucial week in charting Minnesota’s path ahead in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz said Minnesota would trim its quarantine guidance for those who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 from 14 days down to seven to 10 days, per federal recommendations.

The governor also said he’ll soon announce whether he’s extending his current order banning in-person bar and restaurant service beyond Dec. 18.

On Tuesday, Walz and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are expected to lay out more details surrounding the distribution of vaccines in Minnesota.

And by week’s end, state public health leaders say evidence of an expected new wave of cases and hospitalizations originating from Thanksgiving holiday gatherings may begin to surface.

The “hardest weeks” still lie ahead, Walz said as he urged Minnesotans to hang on. “We’re getting close here. Just dig deep. Wear the masks. Try not to gather outside your own family, and let’s get this thing done.”

Brutal December

Information cascaded out Monday hours after the state Health Department reported 21 additional Minnesota deaths, pushing the state’s toll in the pandemic above 4,000.

The latest data extended an already brutal December — 412 deaths reported in the first seven days, following more than 1,100 deaths in November.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

The deaths reported Monday raised Minnesota’s count to 4,005. Among those who’ve died, about two-thirds had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state on Monday posted another 5,135 newly confirmed or probable cases of the disease, putting Minnesota’s total at 356,152 to date. About 88 percent of the people in those cases have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

New hospital admissions continued to ebb from last Tuesday’s record. Still, hospitalizations remain high. Officials say more than 1,500 people remain in the hospital with COVID-19, with more than 350 needing intensive care.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

The ebb in hospital admissions will ease some of the intense pressure on Minnesota hospitals. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, though, said analysts still expect caseloads to climb from Thanksgiving celebrations when people may have let down their guard.

While rolling back the quarantine recommendations presented a risk, Malcolm said officials hope that “by trimming off just the last few days when the risk is significantly lower … it will make people more likely to follow the guidance to the end” and get more people to comply.

Caseloads spread across age groups

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 68,500 since the pandemic began, including nearly 37,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

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

The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 28,000 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.

Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations.

It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Virus surges across rural Minnesota

Central and northern Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases last month, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.

After a spike in confirmed cases through much of November, all regions of the state have seen new case numbers plateau or start to fall in recent days.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Collectively, rural areas continue to report the most new COVID-19 cases per capita.

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

Deaths continue to be highest in greater Minnesota, although they’ve begun trending up slightly in the Twin Cities.

Latino cases climb

In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.

Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.

Officials continue to plead with Minnesotans to wear masks in public gathering spaces, socially distance, stay home if they don’t feel well and otherwise stay vigilant against the spread of COVID-19.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

Developments around the state

Mayo Clinic suspending some southern MN clinic operations amid COVID

Mayo Clinic Health System says it is has temporarily suspended operations at its Belle Plaine clinic and will be temporarily suspending operations at the Mankato-Northridge, Le Sueur, Janesville and Waterville clinics as of Monday.

The reason: the ongoing surge of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

“Suspensions are necessary to reallocate staff to other critical care needs in response to the COVID-19 surge,” the organization said.

The closures are expected to last six weeks. COVID-19 testing is still taking place at the Belle Plaine Clinic.

— MPR News Staff

Need housing aid? Deadline is nearing

Time is running out for cash-strapped Minnesotans to apply for housing assistance money made available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This summer, the Walz administration directed $100 million of federal aid to a housing program to help people in financial distress pay their mortgage, rent and utilities. As of this week, about $30 million remains, but there’s a Monday deadline to apply. 

“We’ve got room for one more big push here to pay December bills,” said Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho who noted that the grant money has gone further than officials expected but added that they know help is still needed.

Katrina Hull of Albert Lea said it’s been critical assistance while she’s been out of work due to coronavirus fallout and she’s had to care for an elderly family member.

“Rent was still due, utilities were still due and I was in a pretty big bind,” Hull said.

Information about the program can be found by dialing 211 or going to

— Brian Bakst | MPR News

Top headlines

How COVID is disproportionately hitting Minnesota’s Latino community: The rising COVID-19 cases are startling everywhere, but the rates in the Latino community in Minnesota and across the country are particularly alarming. Many Latinos work essential jobs that can't be done remotely and are more likely to be exposed to the virus. And those who are not authorized to be in the country are in a particular bind: They don’t qualify for government benefits that can be a financial lifeline for families struggling during the pandemic.

Minnesota ice fishing contests adapt amid pandemic: Large ice fishing contests — a beloved tradition of Minnesota winters for outdoor enthusiasts — are expected to be on hold or look completely different this winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Cloud sidewalk chalk artist spreads joy with masked paintings: An artist in St. Cloud is spreading a little cheer during the COVID-19 pandemic through sidewalk chalk murals of classic paintings — with their famous subjects wearing masks.

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.