COVID-19 in MN: Baby steps out of the latest wave?

A metro bus retrofitted to serve as a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic made a stop in Winthrop, Minn., in July. Hannah Yang | MPR News
Hannah Yang | MPR News

3 things to know:

  • 2,050 newly confirmed or probable cases, lower than the prior Friday

  • 14,249 known, active cases; 695 currently hospitalized

  • 72.3 percent of 16-and-older residents with at least one vaccine dose

Updated 4:30 p.m.

COVID-19 continues to hit Minnesota with a stiff, late-summer punch. The most recent Health Department report, though, offers another dose of mildly hopeful data suggesting the pandemic’s current surge may be ebbing.

The agency on Friday reported 2,050 newly confirmed or probable cases, down from the prior Friday. Known, active cases are trending down, with the state averaging 7,744 over the past reporting week, lower than two weeks ago.

It’s certainly too soon to say the worst is done. Officials remain worried about a potential spike in cases stemming from the new school year, Labor Day gatherings and the Minnesota State Fair. On Friday afternoon, KARE 11 reported that 69 cases so far have been linked to the fair.

Overall, active cases are still more than double what they were a month ago.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

“The slightly good news is the rate of increase has been slowing a bit,” Malcolm said Thursday.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Cases have accelerated through the late summer, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is still trending above the 5 percent threshold that public health officials find concerning.

Hospital and intensive care needs have risen during this summer wave, although they still haven’t reached peak counts seen in the fall and spring — 695 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 185 ICU cases. During the mid-April wave, 202 patients at one point needed ICU beds.

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

The Health Department added 18 newly reported deaths, bringing the state’s toll in the pandemic to 7,892.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

Minnesota remains better positioned now than during the fall and spring spikes. More than 71 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, and more than two-thirds of that population are completely vaccinated.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

It remains a slow march to get more Minnesotans vaccinated, and wide gaps remain in the vaccination rate among state regions.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 eligible vaccination rate

Officials also remain concerned about an increase in the number of cases among school-age children as the new school year begins. Compared to this time last year, both case rates and hospitalizations among this group are higher.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said this trend is a combination of the delta variant being more contagious and kids having much more exposure than last year. In fall 2020, kids were masking everywhere and doing distance or hybrid learning.

All Minnesotans age 12 and older are urged to get vaccinated, and officials are imploring students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear masks inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status.

“Masking reduces transmission of COVID. Period,” Malcolm told reporters Thursday. “Your mask protects you and those around you.”

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