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Latest on COVID in MN: Omicron variant surfaces in Minnesota

Dec 02, 2021 06:07AM ● By Editor
People get tested at the COVID-19 testing site at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last year. State public health leaders on Thursday said the new omicron variant is now in Minnesota. Photo: Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune via AP 2020



From Minnesota Public Radio News - December 2, 2021

State public health leaders on Thursday confirmed the new omicron COVID-19 variant, identified Wednesday in California, is now in Minnesota.

The variant was discovered in a Hennepin County resident who’d traveled recently to New York City, the Minnesota Health Department said in a statement

The agency said the person was an adult man who had been vaccinated against COVID-19. He developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought testing. He told investigators he’d attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21, MDH said. The variant was found through the state Health Department’s variant surveillance program.

The omicron news comes as the state’s key COVID-19 metrics appeared to be slowly improving after a massive surge in casesthat began in late summer and has pushed into the fall. 

Officials remain concerned about a possible COVID bounce from the Thanksgiving holiday that brought many people together indoors for celebrations, the kind of conditions that lead to more viral spread. Hospitalizations and intensive care needs remain high.

Minnesota remains “firmly in the grip of the delta wave,” Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said Wednesday, referring to the highly contagious delta variant of COVID that’s driven the fall surge. 

She implored Minnesotans to get vaccinated and stay vigilant against the disease. “We don’t want to give this virus any more opportunities to infect us and evade our protection,” she said.

    The bolt of new and active COVID-19 cases that’s struck Minnesota in recent weeks seems to be showing signs of retreat. Hospitalizations, however, remain high and intensive care needs are edging up toward their pandemic highs.

    The rate of COVID tests coming back positive is trending now just below 9 percent, according to MPR News calculations. That’s better than the prior two Wednesdays but still nearly twice the rate officials find concerning.

    While the key metrics seem to be trending the right way again, officials remain concerned about a possible bounce from the Thanksgiving holiday that brought many people together indoors for celebrations, the kind of conditions that lead to more spread of COVID’s delta variant.

    Minnesota remains “firmly in the grip of the delta wave,” Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said Wednesday. All Minnesotans should be masking up in public indoor settings, regardless of where they are in the state, she added.

    Malcolm noted that the so-called omicron variant has surfaced in California but so far hasn’t been confirmed in Minnesota. She implored people to get vaccinated if eligible and otherwise stay vigilant against COVID.

    “We don’t want to give this virus any more opportunities to infect us and evade our protection,” she said.


    Hospitalizations, ICU cases climb

    Hospitalizations continue to be concerning. Bed counts that fell below 100 in mid-July jumped in the late fall; 1,562 people are hospitalized now with COVID with 356 needing intensive care, the highest count in nearly a year.

    Graph showing COVID-19 hospitalizations by region

    Hospital executives across the state say COVID patients combined with other care needs have been overwhelming short-staffed care centers. Hospitals in this wave are seeing more people needing treatment for other illnesses along with people who delayed getting care over the past year and a half.

    New COVID-19 cases per capita by age
    New COVID-19 cases per capita by age. David H. Montgomery | MPR News


    Data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show all Minnesota counties, except for Lake of the Woods County, currently with a high level of virus transmission. The current surge, driven largely by the highly contagious delta variant, has been particularly hard on greater Minnesota.

    On a positive note, Wednesday’s numbers showed the count of known, active cases slipped to 27,435, the lowest point in three weeks.

    Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

    The state's death toll stands at 9,482, including 100 deaths newly reported on Wednesday, a total from several days over the Thanksgiving holiday. 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

    Cook County in far northeastern Minnesota reported its first death from COVID; it was the last of Minnesota's 87 counties to report a death from the virus. Officials didn’t release details. 

    The county’s relative remoteness and high vaccination rate — nearly 83 perecent of people have received at least one vaccine dose, including nearly everyone 65 and older — have helped it fare better than other parts of Minnesota.

    The state seems better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes. More than 75 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with more than 71 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

    MPR News reporter Dan Kraker contributed to this report.


    To see the original story and read related reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/12/01/latest-on-covid-in-mn

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