Hopeful signs amid high case counts

Published 6:48 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 data shows the pandemic remains firmly dug in across the state. However, there are indications the surge from Thanksgiving gatherings may be subsiding.

Seven-day case counts have been trending down during the week — from an average of 4,762 per day on Monday to 4,288 in Friday’s Minnesota Health Department data.

The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is also down a bit since the start of the week, trending at just under 10 percent. That’s better but still nearly twice as high as the 5 percent officials find concerning.

Even with that encouraging news, the count of known, active COVID cases in the state climbed again, to 38,381, its 2021 high.

Hospitalizations and intensive care cases remain high. Bed counts that fell below 100 in mid-July jumped in the late fall; 1,678 people are hospitalized now with COVID with 338 needing intensive care.

Hospital executives across the state have warned for weeks that COVID-19 patients combined with other care needs are overwhelming short-staffed care centers.

The current surge, driven largely by the highly contagious delta variant, has been particularly hard on greater Minnesota. Minnesota last week also confirmed its first case of the omicron variant. The state’s tallied 956,779 cases in the pandemic, including reinfections.

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

The state’s death toll stands at 9,872, including 58 deaths newly reported on Friday. Given the pace, Minnesota is likely to record 10,000 COVID deaths in the pandemic within the next few weeks.

Deaths overall in Minnesota are lower than at this time last year, but that’s driven entirely by lower death rates in nursing homes. However, COVID deaths occurring outside of long-term care settings are at record highs.

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.

The state seems better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes. Nearly than 76 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with nearly 72 percent now completely vaccinated.

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.

Winter storm affects testing Friday

The state Health Department is closing several COVID-19 community testing sites early Friday because of the winter storm affecting the region.

The Mankato site is already closed. The Hutchinson site closes at 4 p.m. and five more sites will close at 5 p.m. — Minneapolis, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Stillwater and the Twin Cities airport.