Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge strengthens

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

State officials worried for weeks about a possible COVID-19 bounce from the Thanksgiving holiday, which brought many together indoors for celebrations — the kind of conditions that lead to more viral spread. That appears to be coming to pass.

Tuesday’s Health Department numbers show known, active cases climbing higher over the past week. The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is trending at about 10 percent over the past week, twice as high as the 5 percent officials find concerning.

Newly reported COVID cases averaged more than 4,700 a day during the past seven reporting days. Last week, that average was around 3,600.

Tuesday’s numbers don’t offer a clear sense of where the pandemic is headed next. Signs last week that the disease might have been ebbing were eclipsed by news that COVID-19’s omicron variant has surfaced in the state.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm described the omicron discovery as a wake-up call. “Even though we may feel we’re done with the pandemic,” she said, “it’s certainly not done with us.”

Hospitalizations and intensive care cases remain high. Bed counts that fell below 100 in mid-July jumped in the late fall; 1,621 people are hospitalized now with COVID with 335 needing intensive care.

Hospital executives across the state say COVID-19 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. Some are stretched to the point that military personnel are on-site at Minnesota hospitals in St. Cloud, Minneapolis and Edina.

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

Last week, the count of known, active COVID cases in the state slipped to 27,435, the lowest point in three weeks. By Monday, though, it had climbed again, to 36,260, near its 2021 high.

The state’s death toll stands at 9,699, including 45 deaths newly reported on Monday.

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. 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.

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.

COVID-19 cases reported as of Tuesday

Cases/Deaths

Minnesota: 12,445/45

Mower County: 75/1

Dodge County: 59/0

Steele County: 88/0

Freeborn County: 111/0

Fillmore County: 29/0

Olmsted County:327/1