Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers continue to offer a mixed bag of encouraging and worrisome trends. The count of new deaths remains low, but the surge in new confirmed cases continues and the number of people needing intensive care continues to rise.
The Health Department Monday reported two more deaths from the disease, part of a path since late June of daily deaths in the single-digits. New confirmed cases (622), though, remain on the upswing.
While total current hospitalizations (302), were flat from Sunday, the count of those in the ICU (153) rose to levels not seen in five weeks.
In south central Minnesota, Rice County has the most confirmed cases, now at 999, including eight deaths. Blue Earth County is next with 852 confirmed and four deaths, while Steele County has 330 confirmed and one death. Le Sueur County has 201 confirmed and one death; Nicollet County 312 confirmed and 13 deaths; Waseca County 128 confirmed and no deaths; Goodhue County 176 confirmed and eight deaths; Brown County 85 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 79 confirmed and two deaths.
The newest numbers come as concern rises over community spread of the disease. Case counts are jumping and positive test rates have been rising as people return to indoor bars, restaurants and other public gathering spaces.
Officials have been bracing Minnesotans to expect hospitalizations and ICU cases to grow in response to the surge in cases. While current hospitalizations are far lower than their late-May peak, they continue to go the wrong way.
Hospitalizations have topped 300 for four days straight now, which hasn’t happened since the end of June.
Authorities remain worried that not enough Minnesotans are taking seriously the warnings to wear masks, wash hands and socially distance. That was reinforced last week when a person who attended a crowded Minnesota rodeo last week was found to be contagious with COVID-19.
Of the 56,560 confirmed cases of the disease since the pandemic began, about 88 percent of those infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated
Among the 1,616 Minnesotans who’ve died, about 76 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Cases growing across age brackets, up north
Worries remain about the growth of coronavirus cases 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 — more than 13,000. The median age of Minnesotans infected has been trending down in recent weeks and is now 36 years old.
Regionally, newly reported cases have been driven recently by the Twin Cities and its suburbs, but it’s present in all parts of the state, including the north, which had largely avoided the outbreak until recently.
Cases in Beltrami County, home to Bemidji, have more than doubled in the past two weeks, increasing to 193 as of Monday.
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.
COVID-19 hit to state budget may last years
The COVID-19 pandemic could put a big dent in future state budgets.
A planning estimate released Friday by state finance officials shows a $4.7 billion revenue shortfall in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 because of the economic slowdown triggered by the pandemic.
The state is already facing a more a $2.3 billion deficit this biennium, but Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans said the financial situation could change depending on the course of the virus.
"We need to see what's going to happen with COVID-19 this fall," Frans said. "And that also gives us some time to plan and make sure we make really smart strategic decisions before we have to make the long term budget decisions we'll have to face for '22 and '23."
The long-term outlook does not include any additional money the federal government might send to the states.
— Brian Bakst | MPR News