COVID-19 Latest Aug. 9

(Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News)

Monday’s COVID-19 numbers showed another big jump in new confirmed infections, with rising numbers of Minnesotans in the hospital and intensive care.

State officials have been on the lookout for a possible spike in cases tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings three weeks ago.

Despite the jump, it’s not clear if the latest numbers are evidence of that. At least part of the increase is driven by the highest testing volumes Minnesota has yet reported in the outbreak, including a single-day record on Friday.

They come, though, after Minnesota health officials reported more than 2,200 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases over the weekend, including a single-day record increase of 1,318 cases in Sunday’s report, pushing the state's total past 90,000.

Total current hospitalizations (255) and those patients needing intensive care (128) rose modestly from Sunday. Still, those closely watched metrics had been trending down during the first 10 days in September and have been trending back up in the past week.

Of the 90,942 confirmed cases of the disease in the pandemic to date, about 90 percent of those infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

Four more deaths reported Monday bring Minnesota’s toll to 1,969. Among those who’ve died, about 72 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.

In south central Minnesota, Blue Earth County has the most confirmed cases, now at 1,611, including six deaths. Rice County is next with 1,308 confirmed and eight deaths, while Steele County has 522 confirmed and two deaths. Le Sueur County has 445 confirmed and four deaths; Nicollet County 504 confirmed and 16 deaths; Waseca County 533 confirmed and eight deaths; Goodhue County 332 confirmed and nine deaths; Brown County 180 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 184 confirmed and three deaths.

College campus worries rise

People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — topping 21,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 12,000 infections among people ages 20-24.

The numbers help explain why experts remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus.

While less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations and could also hamper attempts to reopen campuses completely to in-person teaching.

They’ve been driving the recent outbreaks, although the number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with 8,500 total cases among children 15 to 19 years old since the pandemic began.

Winona State University is in the middle of a 14-day campus quarantine that will limit all nonessential activities on campus to slow the spread of COVID-19. Winona State on Wednesday reported a current total of 125 active positive cases and 294 since late August.

Regionally, southern and central Minnesota and the Twin Cities suburbs have driven much of the increase in new cases while Hennepin and Ramsey counties show some of the slowest case growth in the state.

Hot spots have included southwestern Minnesota, where 75 cases have been traced to a late-August wedding in Lyon County that officials describe now as the state’s largest single social spreader event.

Virus spread shifts the school guidance map

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota continues to change school reopening recommendations around the state.

The most recent batch of recommendations, released Thursday, cover cases from Aug. 23 to Sept. 5 — a period that happened to see a late-August spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The result? A full 25 counties saw their COVID-19 case counts slip past one of the Health Department’s thresholds, changing their recommendation toward more distance learning for more students.

In the most recent update, six counties are recommended to have all students do full-time distance learning: Blue Earth, Lyon, Stevens, Waseca, Winona and Yellow Medicine counties. All but Waseca County were previously recommended to allow at least some in-person learning.

Not every county got worse. Eleven counties saw their case rates improve compared to last week’s results, and saw their recommendation shift to more in-person learning.

Overall, 24 largely rural counties have a recommendation of in-person for all students.

A formula produced by the Health Department generates the guidance for districts to help decide whether to have in-person learning, distance learning, or a mix, based on the rate of COVID-19 cases in that district’s county over a two-week period.

These recommendations are only considered the starting point for school districts, which make their own learning plans in cooperation with the Health Department.

Minnesota’s yo-yoing COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks have meant some drastic swings in school districts’ safe learning recommendations, but state health officials say they’re taking the data irregularities into account when working with schools to set learning plans.

Because Minnesota’s calculation uses weeks-old data and calculates cases by the day a person got tested rather than the day the tests were reported, this update is not affected by recent reporting delays caused by the Labor Day weekend.

— David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Free testing planned in several communities

The Minnesota Department of Health is offering free COVID-19 testing in several communities across Minnesota later this week.

You don't need insurance or identification to get tested; it's open to anyone, though officials said it's intended to serve the local community.

Testing takes place Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Wednesday and Thursday in Pine City and Waseca, and Thursday and Friday at Mount Olivet Baptist Church in St. Paul.

Pre-registration is encouraged. Find more information online on the Health Department's COVID-19 community testing page.

— MPR News Staff

Southern Minn newspaper group staff contributed to this article.

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