COVID-19 in MN: Active cases highest since late April

A teacher instructs his socially distant classroom.
In September 2020, second grade teacher Thad Thumbleson gives his students a lesson on the meaning of having character in his socially distant classroom at Wildwood Elementary in Stillwater, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

3 things to know:

  • 2,645 newly confirmed or probable cases

  • 16,485 known, active cases; 719 currently hospitalized

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

It’s not over yet.

Minnesota's newest COVID-19 data shows the state with more than 16,000 known active cases, the highest count since late April. The seven-day daily average of newly reported cases is also the highest since the spring surge.

While the numbers are unsettling, the rate of tests coming back positive remains relatively stable — higher than the 5 percent officials find concerning but not leaping as it has in other COVID waves.

Still, the counts and the burden on Minnesota hospitals are similar now to the wave the state saw in mid-April. State officials have been anxious for weeks about a potential COVID-19 surge stemming from the new school year, Labor Day gatherings and the Minnesota State Fair.

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The state this week confirmed 153 cases directly tied to the fair, including four hospitalizations, along with 33 Minnesota cases linked to the massive August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D.

Active cases are averaging more than 10,000 over the past seven reporting days — significantly higher than two weeks ago as the disease demonstrates its staying power.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Cases have accelerated through the late summer, driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

“I don’t think we feel that we are at a plateau at this time,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said recently. “There are a few encouraging signals in the data,” but it’s “way too early to say much about that.”

She implored Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease — getting vaccinated and continuing to mask in indoor public spaces.

Current hospital and intensive care needs have risen during this summer wave — 719 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 211 ICU cases, higher than in the April surge.

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

The Health Department Friday added 13 newly reported deaths, bringing the state’s toll in the pandemic to 7,983.

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 slog, though, to get more Minnesotans vaccinated, and wide gaps remain in the vaccination rates among regions and counties.

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.

Latest developments

State launches vaccine app

As more businesses require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry, the state is launching an app that will allow people to view and access their immunization records instantaneously. 

The app, called Docket, includes information about COVID-19 shots, but also other shots, too, said state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.

“We recognize the importance of having a secure and convenient way to find, view, and share your and your family’s immunization records, such as needing records for school or child care,” she said. 

Health care providers, pharmacists and other practitioners submit vaccination information to the state database called the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) every time they administer a shot.

“The Docket app gives Minnesotans a digital option to access their immunization history in MIIC, check what vaccines you or your children may be due for, and see what vaccines you may need in the future. This is vital to making sure people are protected from preventable diseases,” she said.  

In recent months, more than 30,000 people have requested immunization records from the state compared to roughly 12,000 last year. The volume has created a backlog, with people waiting weeks to get their information.

Right now, vaccination records are recorded on small paper cards that can be lost or torn - an inconvenience as more and more businesses and facilities require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News