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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: State sees sharp increase in daily case count

Sep 13, 2020 05:35AM ● By Editor
A sign notes coronavirus-related guidelines on Minnesota State University Moorhead campus in Moorhead, Minn.   Photo: Matt Mikus | MPR News file

From Minnesota Public Radio News - September 13, 2020

Minnesota health officials reported a sharp increase in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, ending what had been several days of below-average case counts.

Saturday’s report from the Minnesota Department of Health noted 929 additional cases in the state — more than double the average daily increase over the previous four days. The number of test results reported Saturday increased only slightly from the previous day.

The state also saw nine more COVID-19 deaths, pushing the overall death toll to 1,906. Seven of the nine newly reported deaths were residents of long-term care facilities.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota dropped slightly; the number of those patients being treated in ICUs increased by one over the previous day. 

The low case counts over the previous few days had offered some potentially hopeful signs about COVID-19 trends in Minnesota, as officials watch in the coming weeks for a possible uptick in cases tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings. 

It remains to be seen whether Saturday’s high case count is an outlier — or if the low case counts earlier in the week were only a short-term reduction, perhaps due to reduced testing over the holiday weekend.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 1,906 deaths (nine new)

  • 83,588 positive cases (929 new)

  • 247 still hospitalized; 140 in ICUs

  • 76,650 COVID-19 patients no longer requiring isolation 

  • 1,684,520 tests; 1,222,522 people tested

Lyon County wedding is state’s largest social spreader event

State public health officials continue to implore Minnesotans to wear masks in indoor public spaces, socially distance and take other precautions against the disease. 

Despite the lower case counts this week, community spread is on the rise across the state and officials worry people are numbing to the need to stay vigilant. 

Public health authorities renewed their concerns that backyard parties, informal get-togethers and social functions to start the school year are fueling the latest COVID-19 case counts. 

On Thursday, they declared a late-August wedding in southwestern Minnesota as the state’s largest single social spreader event to date.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Some 300 people attended the wedding and reception in Ghent, in Lyon County, on Aug. 22. There are now 75 COVID-19 cases scattered over 14 counties directly tied to that wedding, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Thursday. 

One person has been hospitalized. The median age of those infected from the wedding is 25; the age range runs from 10 to 84 years old.

“This is the largest event we’ve seen pertaining to disease transmission for a social event,” Ehresmann said. 

Many of those at the wedding worked in health care and education, but the department hasn’t yet identified any cases of secondary spread, she added. 

College campus worries rise

State health authorities remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus. 

People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 19,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 11,000 among people ages 20-24. 

Share of new COVID-19 cases by age

They’ve been driving the recent outbreaks, although the number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, topping 7,500 total cases for children 15 to 19 years old since the pandemic began. 

The reality of those worries came into focus Tuesday as Winona State University announced an immediate 14-day campus quarantine that will limit all nonessential activities on campus for the next two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

While less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations and could also hamper attempts to reopen campuses completely to in-person teaching.

MN counties with the fastest per-capita growth in COVID-19 cases

Officials are also concerned about case clusters around Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead. 

Regionally, the Twin Cities and suburbs had been driving the counts of newly reported cases. Recent data, though, show cases have been climbing in northern and central Minnesota. Friday’s data, however, showed new case counts retreating across the state.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Still, the number of active, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota remains at around 6,000 cases on a seven-day average.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Positive ‘glimmers’

Gov. Tim Walz told MPR News on Friday that there were some positive "glimmers" in some of the data points that could make it possible to ease some more restrictions on daily life if they hold true. 

The governor said his goal was to "open businesses as quickly and safely as we can and keep them open."

Asked what it would take for him to lift the peacetime emergency around COVID-19 — powers that GOP leaders have demanded he stop using — Walz said if experts at the Mayo Clinic told him the public health threat has passed, he'd be more comfortable doing so. 

The governor on Friday extended his peacetime emergency by 30 more days.

Developments around the state

MN House committee focuses on COVID-19 racial disparities

Top lawmakers in the Minnesota House are looking at the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

Members of the House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding met Wednesday to discuss the issue. DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, the chair of the committee, said there are significant racial health disparities in the state.

“I have a feeling that our policy work will continue to be heavily COVID-focused. And whether it is continuing to exist with the virus or building back better, we need to learn as much as we can about what’s going on and what the prognosis is for the future,” Hortman said.

The select committee began its work in May and meets monthly. Past meetings have focused on the pandemic’s impact on health care workers and on the economy.

— Tim Pugmire | MPR News

MN education commissioner: Keep ill kids home

With the school year starting for many students Tuesday, state K-12 education officials also implored families and teachers to stay home when they are sick.

Many students are back in the classroom while others are distance learning at home. 

"I have been that parent, trying to decide whether my child is too sick to send to school so that I can get to work,” Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said Tuesday as she urged parents to continue to limit contact with others and wear masks to help limit COVID-19 in schools.

“I have been that teacher worried about the burden on my colleagues that there isn't a substitute,” she added. “I am urging you to please stay home when you are sick, keep your child home when you are sick this year."

Officials say out of the districts and charter schools that have reported their learning models, nearly two-thirds are opening the school year with a hybrid approach, and a quarter are doing full-time in person. The rest are starting with distance learning.

— MPR News Staff

Top headlines

U drops men's track, tennis, gymnastics; cites need to cut costs, COVID-19: “Our athletic department is now facing a projected loss of revenue of approximately $75 million just this fiscal year,” Joan Gabel, the university president, said in a statement Thursday, noting that the impact will last for years.

Students step in to refurbish computers as school needs rise: A middle school IT club has found a way to use their skills to revamp old computers at a time when distance learning has made such technology indispensable.

3 COVID-19 myths to start the school year: As schools across Minnesota reopen, state and local officials are fighting a new foe in the pandemic: Disinformation that threatens testing strategies meant to protect students, parents and teachers — and keep schools open.

To read the original articles and hear an audio report with more COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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