Minnesota’s COVID-19 data again offers a mixed bag of hopeful and worrisome news. Wednesday’s numbers show daily deaths remain in the single digits, with the number of people currently hospitalized falling slightly after trending up for weeks.
Still, those current hospitalizations (305) stayed above 300 for the sixth straight day and ICU cases (152) remain up compared to a month ago.
While current hospitalizations remain far lower than their late-May peak, they continue to climb even as the growth in new cases flattens.
Of the 57,779 confirmed since the pandemic began, about 89 percent of those infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Among the 1,629 Minnesotans who’ve died, about 76 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.
In south central Minnesota, Rice County has the most confirmed cases, now at 1,006, including eight deaths. Blue Earth County is next with 865 confirmed and five deaths, while Steele County has 334 confirmed and one death. Le Sueur County has 203 confirmed and one death; Nicollet County 322 confirmed and 13 deaths; Waseca County 133 confirmed and no deaths; Goodhue County 183 confirmed and eight deaths; Brown County 85 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 80 confirmed and two deaths.
Cases growing across age brackets, up north
Worries remain about the growth of COVID-19 among younger Minnesotans, including that those infected will inadvertently spread the virus to grandparents and other more vulnerable people.
“Consider all the roles you play” in all daily interactions, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, cautioned last week. People who might not worry about themselves should worry about infecting vulnerable family members and coworkers, she added.
Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the age group with the most confirmed cases in the pandemic — nearly 13,500.
The median age of Minnesotans infected has been trending down in recent weeks and is now 36 years old.
Regionally, the Twin Cities and its suburbs have been driving the newly reported cases.
The seven-county Twin Cities metro area represents more than two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and has accounted for a disproportionate share of the state’s cases since mid-May when southern Minnesota’s meatpacking hot spots were surging.
But the disease is present in all parts of the state, including the north, which had largely avoided the outbreak until recently.
Cases are now as prevalent in northern Minnesota as they are in central Minnesota for basically the first time this outbreak.
Cases in Beltrami County, home to Bemidji, have more than doubled in the past two weeks, increasing to 200 as of Tuesday. Most of the counties seeing a jump in case growth relative to their population are in northern and central Minnesota.
Meatpacking operations had been hot spots for big outbreaks in southwest, west-central and central Minnesota earlier in the pandemic, but new cases have slowed considerably in recent weeks.
The case increases the past few week in Minnesota have caught the attention of the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who in a Monday interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association named Minnesota among a handful of states that should reconsider reimposing some restrictions given the trends.
While Minnesota’s daily new case increases in recent weeks have been high, they appear to have stabilized and that “gives us the sense we have a little bit more time to watch our trends,” Malcolm said Monday.
Worries over Sturgis
The newest numbers come a day after state health officials warned the upcoming Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota could be a potential petri dish for spreading the virus here and across the nation.
The nine-day event is expected to attract more than 250,000 riders and their friends from around the country to the Black Hills starting Friday, which is causing Minnesota health leaders to worry about the disease making its way back here.
“We are concerned with any large gathering, sustained contact of that nature,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday, calling the rally “sort of a recipe for something to happen.”
Asked if Minnesota might call for Sturgis riders coming back to the state to voluntarily quarantine, Malcolm said that while cases are expected to bubble up here in late August and early September, officials here haven’t yet discussed a quarantine request.
Riders who do go to Sturgis should limit their social activity when they return and “be very cautious” if their jobs or social interactions but them in contact with vulnerable people, added Ehresmann.
The length of the rally from Friday through Aug. 16, will mean prolonged exposure for many, and the long-distance travel by many riders means they may carry the virus home and touch off other outbreaks, Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told MPR News Monday.
Sturgis will also feature some high-risk factors, including a surge of possibly hundreds of thousands of people — many of them older — packing into a relatively small town, he added.
“Come mid-August to late August, early September,” Osterholm said, “Sturgis will have one hell of an imprint on this country.”
MN State Fair launches marketplace, competitions online
The Minnesota State Fair is adding virtual merchandise stands to the food parade it has planned in lieu of a real fair this year. The fair announced Tuesday that it is launching an online marketplace with more than 200 vendors.
The usual selection of gifts, gadgets, crafts, decor, tools and apparel are all listed on the fair’s website, with links to the websites of traditional fair vendors. They are planning discounts and sales through the end of 2020.
The fair also announced four online competitions, including cookie decorating, crop art, and photography by K-12 students. Quilting has a competition too, but the quilts must be no larger than 8 inches by 9 inches and mounted on a paint stir stick.
The fair is also holding its annual fine arts show on the fairgrounds, starting Sept. 7. But alas, there’s still no fair — it’s been canceled this year due to the coronavirus.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
Valleyfair to stay shut in 2020
Valleyfair will remain closed for the remainder of the year amid ongoing concerns around COVID-19.
“With the diminishing number of calendar days left in the 2020 operating season, as well as limited visibility from state and local officials as to when a park opening is possible, the decision has been made to remain closed,” the Shakopee, Minn., amusement park said in a statement Tuesday.
Park officials said they’ll continue to work with state authorities to ensure guests can return safely next season.
— MPR News Staff