COVID-19 Latest June 25

Two signs posted on the door of HealthPartners's Stillwater Medical Group clinic in March. Health officials say they’re increasingly concerned that people with serious health problems who need emergency room care are not seeking that care and that parents are not keeping up with regular vaccinations for their children because of COVID-19 fears. (Mark Zdechlik/MPR News file)

Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Minneosta, according to numbers released Monday, though the number of patients hospitalized and in intensive care in the state have declined.

Ten more people have died of complications from the coronavirus — bringing the state’s total deaths to 1,435. Minnesota has also seen an increase of 315 new positive cases. Now, 35,861 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. The number of patients still hospitalized in Minnesota decreased by 10 to 278, and a total of 140 patients are in intensive care.

The state’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has trended higher in recent days, with young adults being a major driver — people in their 20s now make up the largest age group of cases.

COVID-19’s resurgence in Minnesota comes as many Sun Belt states have seen skyrocketing case counts and hospitalizations. However, the percentage of tests that come back positive fell Sunday in Minnesota — and has been largely flat over the past week. Hospitalization numbers also fell over the weekend, after a pause in the last week.

Here are the state’s latest coronavirus statistics:

  • 35,861 cases confirmed via 592,955 tests
  • 1,435 deaths
  • 4,031 cases requiring hospitalization
  • 278 people remain hospitalized; 140 in intensive care
  • 31,225 patients no longer needing isolation

In south central Minnesota, Rice County has the most confirmed cases, now at 804, including six deaths. Blue Earth County is next with 377 confirmed and two deaths, while Steele County has 215 confirmed and no deaths. Le Sueur County has 79 confirmed and one death; Nicollet County 136 confirmed and 12 deaths; Waseca County 57 confirmed and no deaths; Goodhue County 117 confirmed and eight deaths; Brown County 27 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 46 confirmed and two deaths.

Public Health officials in Rice County noted that at least part of the higher number of cases in that county can be attributed to a higher rate of testing. Area businesses who are screening employees each time they arrive for work is also contributing to the higher number of confirmed cases, officials said.

In the Mankato area, including Blue Earth, Nicollet and Le Sueur counties, public officials reported a spike in cases among young people who recently patronized bars.

Young adult and bar-driven clusters

New clusters of cases have been tied to people who went to bars in Mankato and Minneapolis, suggesting that some younger adults aren’t doing enough to prevent the virus’ spread as they move back into public spaces.

Minnesota’s early sacrifices to limit COVID-19’s spread “will be undermined if we don’t get cooperation from all Minnesotans, especially younger Minnesotans, who are most active and social,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters.

“We desperately need younger Minnesotans to take it seriously,” she added.

Two Mankato bars — Rounders and The 507 — were the focal points of an outbreak involving more than 100 cases, Ehresmann said. All those sickened were in their 20s and had gone to bars the first weekend they were allowed to reopen. Officials were also following up on a cluster of 30 cases at two Minneapolis bars — Cowboy Jack’s and Kollege Klub.

Social media from those bars shows they were crowded, with no room for social distancing, and people who were standing and not masked, so not following the state guidance, Ehresmann said.

“It’s not that you can’t socialize. It’s not that you can’t have fun,” she said. “But you need to do in a manner that’s safe for you and the people around you.”

While those young people may be less likely to suffer complications from COVID-19, officials say the concern is that they may be unknowingly spreading the disease to grandparents or other potentially vulnerable populations.

The median age of confirmed cases in Minnesota has been dipping and is now just under 40 years old.

Ehresmann on Friday noted that some of the people who tested positive in Mankato work in child care, pointing out that they have a high likelihood of inadvertently spreading the disease to children and families.

Cluster at Faribault state prison

Another surge in the results comes from an outbreak at the state prison in Faribault, which has recorded 206 positive tests and two deaths among inmates since its first case was recorded on June 3. The Faribault prison had 1,718 inmates as of Saturday.

The latest death at the Faribault prison was Leroy Bergstrom, 71. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 10 and had been hospitalized in critical condition since June 16.

In response to the outbreak, Minnesota’s prisons have limited prisoners’ social interactions and distributed masks. Some prisoners have also been released to reduce crowding, with the state prison population falling from about 8,900 on March 1 to 7,962 on June 25.

Meatpacking hot spots remain

Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.

That includes Mower County in southeastern Minnesota, where there were 868 confirmed cases as of Friday.

Mower County is home to Hormel Foods and Quality Pork Processors. Both have been partnering with Mayo Clinic to ramp up employee testing.

While some of Mower County’s positive cases are associated with people who work in the facilities and with the people they live with, county officials say they are also seeing transmission among people who live in the county but work in other counties where coronavirus is present.

Nobles, in southwestern Minnesota, reported 1,643 confirmed cases Friday. About 1 in 14 people now have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began, although the count of new cases has slowed considerably in recent weeks.

Worthington’s massive JBS pork processing plant was the epicenter of the Nobles outbreak. The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.

Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.

An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Friday, confirmed cases were at 2,156 with 19 deaths.

Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also dealing with a significant caseload more than two months after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus.

As of Friday, the Health Department reported 564 people have now tested positive in the county, the same as Thursday. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases in late April.

Cases have also climbed noticeably in Cottonwood County (130 cases), home to a pork processing plant in Windom, and in Lyon County (289 cases), around a turkey processor in Marshall.

MN Medical Association, health care groups urge policymakers for mandatory masking

The Minnesota Medical Association and 20 other health care groups from around the state are urging public and private sector officials to require masks to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.

In a statement, the group says that a growing body of evidence shows that mask-wearing is helpful in preventing the virus from spreading.

The statement comes as states including Texas and Florida have seen a massive spike in cases weeks after relaxing social distancing rules, and as Minnesota has identified clusters of cases among bar-hoppers in the Mankato area and Minneapolis’ Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota campus.

The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis require masks in stores and other indoor spaces, while some other Minnesota cities including Duluth and Rochester do not.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News

Southern Minn newspaper group staff contributed to this article.

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