Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 data reveals equal parts sadness and hope.
State health officials on Thursday reported 89 more deaths, one of the highest single-day counts in the pandemic.
More than 600 deaths have been reported in the first 10 days of December, atop more than 1,100 deaths recorded in November, making it one of the deadliest stretches in the pandemic.
At the same time, new daily caseloads continued to slow significantly after spiking in November and the start of December. The Health Department posted 3,523 newly confirmed or probable cases on Thursday.
New hospital admissions also continue to retreat from last week’s record, although hospitalizations remain relatively high — more than 1,500 people remain in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with more than 350 needing intensive care.
Thursday’s numbers put Minnesota’s total of confirmed or probable cases at 367,218 to date. In about 88 percent of those cases, people have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The deaths reported Thursday raised Minnesota’s count to 4,198. Among those who’ve died, about two-thirds had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
Caseloads spread across age groups
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — nearly 71,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 38,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 29,000 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
Although 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.
It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
New caseloads ebb in rural Minnesota
Central and northern Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases over the past five weeks, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.
After a spike in confirmed cases through much of November, all regions of the state have seen new case numbers plateau or start to fall in recent days. Hard-hit northwestern Minnesota may soon have fewer new cases per capita than the metro.
Hot spots continues to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.
Latino cases climb
In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.
Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.
Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
Officials continue to plead with Minnesotans to wear masks in public gathering spaces, socially distance, stay home if they don’t feel well and otherwise stay vigilant against the spread of COVID-19.
Minnesota officials are still expecting another wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations originating from Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. They anticipated seeing those numbers begin to rise this week — but it hasn’t happened yet.
That’s led key public health leaders to express at least some measured optimism that the coming surge won’t be as bad as they thought.
On Wednesday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she was somewhat hopeful that many families heeded public pleas to not gather in big groups for Thanksgiving, and so the worst-case scenarios of a post-holiday surge might not materialize.
That doesn’t mean, though, that a surge isn’t coming. Minnesota is likely to hit 400,000 cases “in the next week or so” Malcolm told reporters. The state passed 300,000 cases less than two weeks ago.
Gov. Tim Walz has urged Minnesotans to “hang on,” noting that vaccinations here could begin by Christmas.
The governor had been expected to say this week whether he’ll extend his current ban on in-person bar and restaurant service beyond Dec. 18, although an announcement may not come until Monday.
Walz calls Monday session for COVID aid package
Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that he is calling lawmakers into special session Monday to take up a package of COVID-19 relief for businesses, workers and families.
The governor did not say whether an agreement on a relief package has been reached with House and Senate leaders. He and lawmakers have talked of a package that would include support to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners and their workers.
The governor also said he also plans to extend his emergency powers to address the pandemic by another 30 days. Lawmakers will likely debate those powers next week as they have since March.
— Tim Pugmire | MPR News
Report: Pandemic takes toll on Minnesota child care providers
A new report finds almost half of Minnesota child care providers are currently losing money amid the pandemic.
The report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, surveyed child care providers in the middle and end of November.
It found that over half of respondents were using their personal credit cards of savings accounts to purchase needed supplies. Nine in 10 have had to purchase additional cleaning supplies and over half have had to hire additional staff.
Forty-five percent were faced with so much uncertainty that they were unable to say how much longer they will be able to stay open. Of those providers who do know what their futures hold, nearly 1 in 5 say they will have to close within three months if enrollment stays where it is and they don’t receive more public support.
— Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News