COVID-19 in MN: CDC recommends indoor masking for many Minnesota counties

A sign advising people to wear masks
A sign at a Metro Transit light rail station in St. Paul advises riders of a continued requirement to wear face coverings on public transit on Saturday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

3 things to know

  • 702 newly confirmed cases reported Friday; 5 newly reported deaths

  • Active cases near 4,000, highest since late May; 231 currently hospitalized

  • CDC updates indoor mask guidance for vaccinated people in areas where transmission is high, including many Minnesota counties

Updated July 31, 12:55 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 picture looked extremely bright on July 1. Now, with the month ending on Saturday, things are a little cloudy. Cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at a steady pace heading into August.

With the rise of the delta variant, the CDC recommends even vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in areas where community transmission is substantial or high.  

In Minnesota, as of Friday evening, that includes more than 30 counties — including nearly all of the Twin Cities metro area.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Minnesota counties falling under those “substantial” or “high” transmission categories are Aitkin, Anoka, Benton, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Fillmore, Freeborn, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Kandiyohi, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Nobles, Ramsey, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Scott, Stearns, Swift, Traverse, Waseca, Washington, Wilkin, Winona and Wright.

While the vaccine largely prevents serious illness or death from COVID, health experts say it is possible for a vaccinated person to get a so-called "breakthrough" case and then spread the virus.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Friday’s Health Department data showed Minnesota averaging around 476 new cases per day over the last seven reporting days, up significantly from about 91 daily at the start of July. Known active cases in that stretch have gone from 780 to just under 4,000.

The state is in a much better position than in November or April thanks to vaccinations. Nearly 70 percent of state residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccination shot. That offers some hope this will remain a relatively mild wave.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

Still, state public health leaders estimate the highly contagious delta variant is now driving 75 percent of new cases. They are imploring Minnesotans who are eligible for a vaccine but still unvaccinated to get their shots.

Hospital and intensive care needs are all heading higher again — 231 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 64 needing intensive care — and the rate of tests coming back positive for the disease has been creeping back up toward the 5 percent threshold that officials find concerning.

Graph of new ICU and non-ICU COVID-19 hospitalizations

Data shows this current wave hitting Black Minnesotans especially hard.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

“The speed of case growth is truly concerning,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said earlier this week as she and other officials backed new federal guidance urging all students, staff and visitors to K-12 school buildings this fall to wear masks indoors to protect against COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

About 68.7 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest data; 65.5 percent are completely vaccinated.

Officials hope by the end of August, at least 70 percent of the state’s 16-and-older population will be have at least one vaccine dose, although the rate of vaccination continues to sputter along.

However, wide gaps remain in the vaccination rate among Minnesota regions.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 eligible vaccination rate

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