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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Active cases leap; hospitals 'literally full'

Jan 07, 2022 02:52PM ● By Editor
Nurse Alicia Amundson loads a syringe with the Johnson & Johnson vaccination for COVID-19 on April 12, 2021 at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud.  Photo: Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - January 7, 2021

The post-holidays COVID-19 surge continues to whack Minnesota.

State Health Department figures Friday showed seven-day new cases averaging more than 5,000 a day; known, active cases came in at more than 44,000 — the highest since just after Thanksgiving 2020 and 11,000 more than a week ago.

The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is trending at about 10 percent, according to MPR News calculations — about twice the 5 percent officials find concerning. 

“The omicron surge has most definitely reached Minnesota,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Friday. She said it’s spreading “like wildfire” here and across the country and “we just need to expect that it’s going to be the norm for us in coming weeks.”

While omicron appears to cause less severe illness, Malcolm said it remained a danger to unvaccinated people and other vulnerable populations and that hospitals and care centers would remain under strain in the coming weeks. She estimated omicron is responsible for about 90 percent of Minnesota’s new case counts.

Hospitalizations remain high — 1,467 people are hospitalized with COVID, 269 needing intensive care. 

Hospital executives across the state have warned since late fall that COVID-19 patients combined with other care needs were overwhelming short-staffed care centers. In mid-December, leaders of nine Minnesota health care systems called the situation heartbreaking and critical.

On Friday, the Minnesota Hospital Association begged people not to come to emergency rooms seeking COVID tests or other nonemergency care, noting a “high volume” of patients driving up wait times for medical emergencies at several hospitals.

“We have run out of words to describe what we are undergoing — a crisis does not even come close,” the group said, adding, “hospitals are literally full … ICUs are full, emergency departments are full, medical-surgical units are full, hallways are full, and surgeries are being canceled.”

Data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show all Minnesota counties except for Aitkin, Red Lake and Norman currently with a high level of virus transmission. 

On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz said he expected the current spike in cases will likely peak in the next few weeks.

He noted the state is working to expand testing, including an immediate doubling of capacity at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul. The state will also give schools 1.8 million at-home rapid tests to give to families and provide 150,000 at-home tests to communities hit hard by the virus. 

The state's death toll stands at 10,766 including 33 deaths newly reported on Friday. 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. 

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes. More than 76 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with more than 72 percent now completely vaccinated.

The state is seeing progress in getting boosters 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.

    To see the original report and read related articles, follow this link to the MPR News website.
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