COVID-19 in MN: Officials say state is in its fourth wave

A man receives his COVID-19 vaccine
St. Cloud resident Abdirahmann Ibraahim receives his COVID-19 vaccine at a walk-in vaccination clinic held in April at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News file

3 things to know

  • 3,054 newly confirmed cases reported Tuesday; three newly reported deaths

  • 3 million Minnesotans 16 and older have completed vaccination series

  • The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests passes 5 percent

Updated: 8:24 p.m.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says that the state is in its fourth COVID-19 spike.

Cases have been rising statewide. The Department of Health reported 3,054 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, a large increase in reported cases last seen in April. Case rates are 54 percent higher than they were this time last year.

Tuesday’s data pushed Minnesota’s seven-day average to over 1,250 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 nearly 9,000.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Cases are rising in all age groups, but it’s hitting the unvaccinated hardest, including children who aren’t yet eligible for shots.

The rate of tests coming back positive for COVD-19 in the past reporting week, now at 5.21 percent, has passed the 5 percent threshold that officials find concerning.

The increase comes as federal health officials are considering new recommendations of COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after receiving their final dose of the shot.

Earlier, federal health officials recommended boosters for some with weakened immune systems, including solid organ transplant patients, people with some types of cancer and advanced and untreated HIV.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

The state reached 70 percent of residents 16 and older with at least one vaccination shot on Aug. 11.

Deaths also remain fairly moderate even as cases and hospitalizations have risen. Malcolm said that’s due directly to vaccinations.

“We are not seeing the same proportionate rise in the numbers of deaths as we’ve seen in prior waves,” she said.

On the downside, the percent of COVID-19 cases among kids requiring hospitalization is up to about 2.2 percent from less than 1 percent back in the fall. And data shows this current wave is hitting Black Minnesotans especially hard.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

About 70.5 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest data; 66.5 percent are completely vaccinated. Add in some 113,000 12-to-15-year-olds and Minnesota counts over 3 million people completely vaccinated.

Vaccination rates among kids 17 and younger is up in recent weeks, but only about a fourth of all Minnesota youth 12 and older have been fully vaccinated going into the school year.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

Among those vaccinated, more than 7,100 people — well below 1 percent — have gone on to get COVID-19 with 584 ending up hospitalized and 60 dying. Malcolm called the data “amazing evidence” of the vaccines’ protection.

It's become harder to get tested for COVID since the state shuttered some of its testing sites earlier this summer. The state is giving funding to schools for on-site testing — both rapid and saliva tests, depending on what the school wants.

The state is recommending that unvaccinated school-age kids and school staff get tested for COVID-19 weekly. Unvaccinated kids in extracurricular activities should be tested even more often. And vaccinated students and school staff should get tested if they are experiencing symptoms or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

State public health officials briefed reporters Tuesday afternoon. Listen below.

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