Latest on COVID-19 in MN: State tops 10K deaths; active cases ebbing

Doctor Jacob Lyons prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient’s room
Dr. Jacob Lyons prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient’s room on Dec. 8, inside the intensive care unit at the St. Cloud Hospital.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

3 things to know:

  • Minnesota tops 10,000 total deaths, nears 1 million total cases

  • 1,645 currently hospitalized, 371 in ICU

  • Active caseloads starting to pull back

Updated 12:35 p.m.

Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 data suggests the surge from Thanksgiving gatherings is subsiding. Still, the state crossed a difficult milestone Wednesday, tallying more than 10,000 pandemic deaths. Hospitalizations remain high.

State Health Department numbers showed seven-day new cases averaging 3,319 a day; known, active cases fell to 25,425. Both counts are the lowest in more than a month.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is trending at just over 8 percent, down from more than 10 percent a week ago. It’s improving but still higher than the 5 percent officials find concerning.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by age
.

Hospitalizations have ticked down a bit but remain high. Bed counts that fell below 100 in mid-July jumped in the late fall; 1,645 people are hospitalized now with COVID with 371 needing intensive care. ICU cases are at their highest point in more than a year.

Graph showing COVID-19 hospitalizations by region

On a hopeful note, new hospital admissions have started to fall.

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

Hospital executives across the state have warned for weeks that COVID-19 patients combined with other care needs are overwhelming short-staffed care centers. In a letter published over the weekend in newspapers across the state, leaders of nine Minnesota health care systems called the situation heartbreaking and critical.

MPR News is Reader Funded

Before you keep reading, take a moment to donate to MPR News. Your financial support ensures that factual and trusted news and context remain accessible to all.

The current surge, driven largely by the highly contagious delta variant, has been particularly hard on greater Minnesota. Minnesota last week also confirmed its first case of the omicron variant. The state’s tallied 971,667 cases in the pandemic, including reinfections.

Data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show all Minnesota counties except for Norman and Red Lake currently with a high level of virus transmission.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

The state's death toll stands at 10,018, including 54 deaths newly reported on Wednesday. More than half of these deaths have been Minnesotans older than 80, with another 30 percent among people 65-79, 12 percent for those ages 50-64, with 3.5 percent younger than 50.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

Deaths overall in Minnesota are lower than at this time last year, but that’s driven entirely by lower death rates in nursing homes. However, COVID deaths occurring outside of long-term care settings are at record highs.

Deaths typically follow a surge in cases and hospitalizations. In past COVID-19 waves, it’s been the last of the key metrics to improve.

The state seems better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes. Nearly 76 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with nearly 72 percent now completely vaccinated.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

The state is seeing progress in getting booster shots into Minnesotans who’ve already been vaccinated.

However, the struggle continues to get first shots into more Minnesotans. Wide gaps remain in the vaccination rates among regions and counties.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 eligible vaccination rate