Minnesota reported 12 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, the state’s first double-digit total in the pandemic since July 2.
While only a slight increase from prior days, and well below the daily highs of 30 or more COVID-19 deaths per day in late May, the count is nonetheless a concern for state health officials who feared that more deaths would follow a recent increase in lab-confirmed cases of the infectious disease.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported only 470 new lab-confirmed infections on Wednesday with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But the case count until this week had been trending upward to an average of more than 700 per day.
Nine of the 12 deaths reported Wednesday involved residents of long-term care facilities. Gov. Tim Walz and state health leaders had employed a plan of broad testing and visitation restrictions to reduce COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities after a surge of infections and deaths this spring.
Cases in long-term care facilities had declined for much of the summer but started to increase late last month. Health officials said younger workers infected in bars, group gatherings or other settings had reintroduced the virus into some facilities. Many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 can spread the virus even in the absence of symptoms.
“Infection numbers have gone up a bit in recent weeks which is a really unfortunate result of the marked increase we’re seeing in community transmission around the state,” state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “Workers ... may be picking up the virus from exposure in the community if they are out at social events and the like and then unknowingly bringing that into our long-term care facilities.”
The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota is now 1,678. While 75% of those deaths involve residents of long-term care and assisted-living facilities, that rate had been more than 80% earlier in the pandemic.
The state on Wednesday also reported that 335 Minnesotans with COVID-19 were hospitalized, and that 154 needed intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications.
The total number of lab-confirmed infections in Minnesota is now 62,303 — with 55,855 involving people who have recovered to the point they are no longer considered infectious or required to isolate themselves.
Federal health officials have estimated there are as many as 10 unknown, mild infections for every one case confirmed through diagnostic testing. Case counts have increased in Minnesota in lockstep with increased testing, but state health officials said there is evidence that the virus is spreading more broadly in the state right now.
The positivity rate of diagnostic tests has increased to 5.4%, up from 3% two months ago. Minnesota reports its positivity rate based on the dates on which specimens are collected, which creates a lag in the data.
The COVID Exit Strategy national website reports a more recent positivity rate based on report data of test results — and lists Minnesota at 6.9%.