Latest on COVID in MN: Case counts, ICU needs falling as omicron ebbs

A nurse draws vaccine into a vial.
Nurse Sam Kissi draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe before giving it to Zarea Fonge at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in St. Paul on March 18, 2021.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2021

3 things to know:

  • 1,052 hospitalized; 153 in ICU, lowest since August

  • New case trending at lowest point since Dec. 31

  • Wastewater data shows Twin Cities COVID down to August-September levels

Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 numbers remain pointed down a positive path. Key metrics tracking the disease’s spread continue to show the current surge in retreat, with new and active cases, positive test rates and hospital bed use all falling steadily.

Friday’s data builds on recent evidence of an ebb in the pandemic wave that slammed Minnesota following the end-of-year holidays.

Graph of new COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Wastewater data released by the Metropolitan Council shows COVID levels down to their lowest level in the Twin Cities region since August or September.

Overall, there are around 26,000 active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota. That’s down dramatically from mid-January, when active cases topped 67,000.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Hospitalizations are still relatively high — 1,052 — but have been trending down for weeks. Intensive care demands are at their lowest point since August, with 153 COVID patients currently occupying ICU beds.

The Minnesota Hospital Association says although daily case numbers in the state are trending downward, health systems remain "extremely stressed." The hospital association is calling the reduction in the number of COVID hospitalizations “modest.”

Hospital bed use is falling particularly fast in the Twin Cities metro area, which took the initial hit from COVID’s omicron mutation, and began recovering first.

Graph showing COVID-19 hospitalizations by region

The state’s hospital bed availability continues to increase, with more than 5 percent of ICU and non-ICU beds statewide available for the first time in months.

With the picture improving rapidly, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul on Thursday ended their controversial order from January ordering proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test to enter public places serving food and drink. And the University of Minnesota lifted its temporary requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative test for events with over 200 attendees.

In Duluth, a 30-day masking requirement ordered by the mayor as cases climbed expires Saturday.

Health officials continue to plead for vigilance against the disease, including masking in indoor public spaces, as the numbers are still somewhat high. In July, Minnesota appeared to be through the worst of the pandemic, and then the omicron variant hit hard.

The most recent map from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to show all Minnesota counties with a high rate of viral transmission.

“What we need to come to grips with is we’re not done with the virus. It’s not done with us,” Michael Osterholm head of the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told MPR News earlier in the week.

The current wave, though, appears to be past its peak.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by age

Minnesota’s positive test rate has been moving steadily downward, with sample data showing positivity falling significantly. If recent trends continue, it’s possible Minnesota this weekend could fall below 5 percent, the threshold of concern for state health officials.

The state's death toll stands at 11,797 including 36 newly reported deaths. 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.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes: About 78 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with more than 73 percent now completely vaccinated.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

But the struggle continues to get first shots into more Minnesotans, especially in central Minnesota.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 eligible vaccination rate

MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik contributed to this report.