This past week President Joe Biden signed into law an official end to the national COVID-19 emergency response. Relatedly, the nation’s official COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire on May 11.
As reported by KFF, the ending of federal COVID-19 emergency status impacts a host of pandemic-era health programs, ranging from requiring private health insurance to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing and vaccination, to expanding access to both Medicaid and Medicare.
As reported by NPR, the ending of the national emergency also touches programs that are not as directly health related, including phasing out the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s COVID-19 mortgage forbearance program and the Department of Veterans Affairs allowance to declare caregiver assistance without an in-home visit.
While most of the data are currently pointing to better overall conditions related to COVID-19 it is still the case that an average of five Minnesotans per day are dying with the disease.
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In addition, the impacts of long COVID continue to unfold. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey about 13 percent of all Minnesota adults have experienced long COVID, including the nearly six percent who reported current symptoms.
Populations especially vulnerable to COVID-19 hospitalizations and even death, including those who are immune compromised and older adults, need to remain vigilant despite the downgrading of the federal government’s broader response to the pandemic.
As mentioned, the latest COVID-19 data from Minnesota show a continued waning. Before getting into the details here are three key takeaways:
Officially reported COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations continue recent declines.
Wastewater data shows COVID levels declining or remaining steady throughout most of the state.
The CDC’s Community Level ratings show all 87 Minnesota counties as low risk.
Officially reported COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations continue recent declines
Minnesota’s officially reported COVID-19 new daily case count remained below 300 for the second straight week, falling by an average of 38 cases per day to 262 for the week ending April 6. This continued decline puts case counts below last year’s lowest weekly average – 381 for the week ending March 22. And, at least so far, we are not seeing signs of the uptick in case counts that Minnesota Department of Health reported at this time last year.
While officially reported cases miss a lot of COVID-19 circulation – at-home tests are not included – the COVID-19 testing regime has been similar since March 2022 when state and federal government shifted away from widespread availability of free PCR tests, which require lab analysis, toward the at-home “rapid tests.”
For the week ending April 6, an average of 28 Minnesotans were admitted to a hospital bed with COVID-19 every day. This is down by an average of 4 admissions per day from the week prior and is nearing Minnesota’s 2022 low point in COVID-19 hospital admissions at this time last year.
Overall COVID-19 hospitalizations include those admitted to regular beds as well as those to intensive care units (ICU). For this most recent week of data an average of 25 people per day were admitted to regular, non-ICU, beds, while an average of three people per day were admitted to intensive care units in the state.
Despite the relatively low numbers of COVID-19 admissions, the health department also reports that demand for hospital beds remains very high, with at least 98 percent of Metro area hospital beds occupied on a regular basis for the past 12 months.
An average of five Minnesotans per day died with COVID-19 listed as a contributing factor over the week ending March 23. This is similar to the level of COVID-19-related deaths reported by Minnesota’s health department for several months. Notably, however, zero COVID-19 deaths were reported for March 20 – the last time that happened was June 10, 2022.
Wastewater data shows COVID-19 levels falling or remaining steady in most of the state
Twin Cities metro update
The total level of virus in Twin Cities wastewater decreased by 28 percent for the week ending April 10 compared to the previous week, according to the latest data from the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota’s Genomic Center. The level of virus entering the Metro Plant is now at its lowest point since April 2022.
COVID levels dropped or remained steady in six of seven Minnesota regions over the most recent four-week period, and decreased or remained relatively steady in all seven regions in the most recent week, according to the latest data out of the University of Minnesota’s Wastewater SARS-CoV2 Surveillance Study.
Like last week’s update, the data raises some concern over the study’s South Central region raises, which includes five treatment plants located in Blue Earth, LeSueur, McLeod, and Nicollet counties, that collectively serve a population of about 69,000. COVID levels measured in the wastewater in this region increased by 205 percent in the four weeks leading up to April 2. But COVID levels decreased by 28 percent in the most recent week. While COVID levels in the wastewater remain relatively high in this region, the one-week decrease suggests those levels have peaked and are now starting to fall again.
All 87 Minnesota counties given low community-level rating by the CDC this week
The map of Minnesota is entirely green in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Community Level assessment for Minnesota this week, meaning that all 87 of the state’s counties have low COVID community levels. Although there have been several instances where the map has come close to being all green—with no high-level counties and only a few medium-level ones—this is the first time since at least last July where all counties have low community levels.
The CDC’s county-level transmission map lists three counties—Wabasha, Lake and Jackson counties—as meeting the high transmission threshold of at least 100 cases per 100,000, up from zero last week, and only 8 in the “substantial” transmission range (50 to 99 cases per 100,000), down from 18. Although Wabasha, Lake and Jackson counties have case rates slightly above 100 cases per 100,000, they have low hospitalization rates, meaning they remain at a low community level since that metric is determined by case rates and hospitalization rates (or hospital bed occupancy).
For additional information see the COVID in Minnesota Key data page; new data is added throughout the week.