Minnesota health data roundup: The latest on COVID, abortion and air quality

Minnesota has nation's lowest COVID hospitalization rates, ranks near middle on abortion rates

The Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building
Pedestrians cross the street as they leave Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in Rochester, Minn. Jan. 22.
Alex Kolyer for MPR News | 2016

COVID-19: Hospitalizations, wastewater counts down; reporting shifts

Minnesota’s overall COVID numbers remain low with some continuing to decline since our last data roundup.

Ongoing data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to fall to all-time lows, with an average of only 6.4 new admissions per day, including 1.3 to intensive care units, during the week ending June 5.  

National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Minnesota’s most recent weekly rate (0.71 per 100,000 for the week ending June 10) is the nation’s lowest. The national rate is also low (2 per 100,000), and no state exceeds the CDC’s designated “low” range (less than 10 per 100,000).

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While Minnesota saw a 40 percent drop in weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations, neighboring states of Iowa and South Dakota each saw a 25 percent increase.  

Positive COVID trends can also be found in Twin Cities wastewater. Data from metro treatment plants show COVID counts at their lowest levels since early July 2021, according to the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota’s Genomic Center.    

COVID’s presence in wastewater remains low throughout Minnesota, according to the University of Minnesota’s parallel statewide wastewater analysis. While the study’s Central and South Central regions did see an increase over the last month, those levels are recently on the decline. The South West region was the only one to see an increase in levels over the last week.

It’s also worth noting that the state’s COVID mortality rate has averaged less than two per day since late May.  

On the COVID treatment front, new research from the University of Minnesota published recently in the Lancet finds that a diabetes drug, metformin, significantly reduced incidence of long COVID, especially when started within three days of initial COVID-19 symptom onset.  

The study also tested ivermectin and fluvoxamine, neither of which were found to be effective in reducing incidence of long COVID. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, discussed the findings in his most recent podcast

Nationally, the online publication Politico recently reported that the FDA’s expert panel on vaccines has voted unanimously to recommend “that fall COVID-19 boosters protect against the XBB strain of the virus — an Omicron subvariant and the most prevalent strain worldwide.” The new boosters could be available as early as September. 

The Minnesota Department of Health intends to pare back its COVID vaccination data, from showing how many Minnesotans have received one dose, completed the initial round of vaccination and received a booster (79 percent, 72 percent and 46 percent respectively as of MDH’s most recent update) to simply showing how many are up to date with the latest bivalent booster: 27 percent overall, including 68 percent of those age 65 or older. 

This change also affects the department’s COVID “breakthrough” reporting, comparing COVID case, hospitalization and mortality rates according to vaccination status (including unvaccinated). While much of the state’s population now has developed some level of immunity through prior COVID-19 infections, the breakthrough reporting still provided some evidence of vaccine effectiveness.  

For example, the currently available breakthrough report shows that among those age 65 or older COVID-19 mortality for those who were unvaccinated has been 5.9 times higher than those who completed initial vaccination, and 13 times higher than those who received the bivalent booster. 

Abortion: Minnesota’s rates ranked in the middle, at least in 2020

This week MPR News had a great series on abortion now that one year has passed since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. This inspired us to dive into the data a little. It turns out that Minnesota ranks at or near the middle on a variety of abortion statistics. 

According to 2020 data from the CDC (the latest year data is available) Minnesota ranks 16th for the number of officially reported abortions and 19th when comparing the rate of abortions obtained per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.  

For every 1,000 live births in Minnesota there were 163 abortions, which places the state 23rd overall among states for this ratio.

Minnesota ranked 17th for the number of abortions obtained by out of state residents, 971, and of all officially reported abortions in the state, roughly one in 10 were obtained by out of state residents, placing the state 26th overall for this percentage. 

According to the MPR | Star Tribune | KARE11 Minnesota Poll conducted last September, over half of Minnesota’s likely voters thought that abortion should generally be legal, including 30 percent who said it should be legal in all cases. This is roughly equivalent to what American adults overall think, according to national polling done around the same time.  

Continued challenges with Minnesota air quality 

Minnesota’s latest air quality alert — covering most of the state’s population from St. Cloud through the entire Twin Cities metro area and south to Mankato, Rochester and Albert Lea — has been expanded to 3 p.m. Saturday.

That said, air quality concerns are likely to return. To keep yourself updated on the latest conditions, you might want to bookmark these resources:  

Correction (June 26, 2023): An earlier version of this story misstated the ratio of live births to abortions in Minnesota.