COVID-19 Latest Aug. 9

(Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News)

Minnesota’s steep climb in new COVID-19 cases continues, with the Health Department on Monday reporting nearly 1,200 newly confirmed infections. Hospitalizations are nearing record levels in the pandemic.

The newest numbers come after a weekend where confirmed COVID-19 case counts rose by nearly 3,000 — the greatest two-day increase of the pandemic to date. That included a record single-day increase of 1,537 cases in Saturday's report as testing also climbed to record levels.

Active, confirmed cases in Minnesota remain at a record high.

Officials had anticipated seeing a surge in cases expected from Labor Day weekend gatherings, sporting events and college student meetups before the start of fall semester. They also expected the wave of new cases would put more people in the hospital. That appears to be happening.

Three deaths reported Monday raised Minnesota’s toll to 2,144. Among those who’ve died, about 71 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.

Of the 113,439 cases of the disease confirmed in the pandemic to date, about 89 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

In south central Minnesota, Blue Earth County has the most confirmed cases, now at 1,876, including seven deaths. Rice County is next with 1,492 confirmed and eight deaths, while Steele County has 657 confirmed and two deaths. Le Sueur County has 546 confirmed and five deaths; Nicollet County 628 confirmed and 17 deaths; Waseca County 877 confirmed and nine deaths; Goodhue County 459 confirmed and nine deaths; Brown County 267 confirmed and three deaths; and Sibley County 224 confirmed and three deaths.

Rise in cases among age 60-plus Minnesotans

New cases are up dramatically since Sept. 1 in all age groups 30 and older, but the most recent data show a concerning rise in the number of new cases among Minnesotans ages 60 and older. It’s not clear why.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — approaching 26,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 15,000 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 and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations and that spread could hamper attempts to reopen campuses completely to in-person teaching.

The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 10,500 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.

Surges seen in northern, central Minnesota

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

Northern Minnesota, once by far the region least affected by the disease, has seen its caseload grow dramatically in recent weeks relative to its population. It’s not clear what’s behind that.

Collectively, rural areas of Minnesota continue to report the most new COVID-19 cases.

Early on, many Minnesotans thought COVID-19 would be only a Twin Cities metro area problem, but now the biggest problems are happening in non-urban parts of the state.

“The hottest of our hot spots are outside the metro area,” Ehresmann said Friday. That includes Martin and Pipestone counties in southern Minnesota, where positive test rates are hitting 10 percent, about twice the statewide average.

She implored Minnesotans again to wear masks in indoor public gathering spaces, socially distance and stay home if they don’t feel well. “People in greater Minnesota,” she added, “they have it within their control to make things better.”

More free testing sites open this week

The Minnesota Department of Health and local officials are offering another round of free COVID-19 testing sites around the state this week.

Testing sites will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Aitkin, Alexandria, Anoka, Faribault, Luverne and St. Cloud.

Testing also will be available Thursday and Friday afternoons at New Hope Baptist Church in St. Paul.

For more details on times and testing locations — and to sign up for an appointment — go to the MDH website.

State health officials also announced that they're opening a second COVID-19 saliva testing site later this week, in Winona.

The state opened its first saliva testing site in Duluth late last month. The second site will open Wednesday at the Winona Mall.

Health Department officials say they are trying to be proactive as COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the state. They say that they're especially concerned about a growing spread of the coronavirus throughout greater Minnesota.

Saliva testing will be available to anyone who wants it or thinks they need it. So far more than 7,000 people have completed saliva testing at the first site in Duluth. State officials plan to open as many as eight more sites across the state in the coming weeks.

The Winona testing site will be open five days a week, from Wednesday through Sunday. Find more information here.

— MPR News Staff

Lewis remains in self-quarantine but has tested negative

U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis remained in self-quarantine Sunday after being in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, but the Minnesota Republican told reporters on a Zoom call Sunday that he's feeling fine and planning to get back on the campaign trail as soon as possible.

“I’ve been tested five times in five weeks — all negative. I’ll probably get tested again this week and again, if we get another negative as expected, be back out there. But, feeling good, no issues — you know, just following the protocol," he said.

Lewis is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Tina Smith

He postponed in-person events starting last Wednesday after learning of the contact. Lewis had also previously self-quarantined after potential exposure to the coronavirus during President Donald Trump's visit to Minnesota on Sept. 30.

— Myah Christenson | MPR News

Southern Minn newspaper group staff contributed to this article.

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