Twenty-five COVID-19 deaths were reported by Minnesota health authorities Thursday along with a record 3,956 diagnosed infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the disease.
Thursdays have offered some of the most severe daily totals this fall due to the administrative cycle of reporting more COVID-19 data later in the week, and that trend continued.
Minnesota’s overall toll in the pandemic is now 2,555 deaths and 164,865 infections — though 936 infections are listed as “probable” due to the use of antigen testing that is slightly less accurate than usual molecular testing.
“Right now, it feels like we are losing ground,” state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said, noting that infection growth is almost doubling testing growth and that the positivity rate of testing has risen to 9.2% “We’re seeing record numbers of new cases ... and it’s because we are falling behind the rapid spread of this virus.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased with Thursday’s update to the state’s pandemic response dashboard. The number of Minnesota hospital beds with COVID-19 patients increased to 931, including a record 216 patients who needed intensive care because of breathing problems or complications from their infections.
Dr. Rahul Koranne of the Minnesota Hospital Association urged people to continue with the mitigation strategies of mask-wearing, social distancing, staying home when sick and avoiding large crowds in order to take the pressure off hospitals and their workers.
“Beyond these numbers are health care heroes and care teams that are working 24/7 weekdays and weekends,” he said. “They deserve our help right now. ... We are worried about the increasing community spread for sure, but also now about the increasing level of hospitalizations.”
More than 15,000 Minnesota health care workers — mostly in long-term care facilities — have tested positive for COVID-19 and 525 have been hospitalized.
Health officials have reminded that the mitigation steps work in combination to lower infection risks, and that adherence to only one won’t be protective. The state also is urging people, especially with COVID-19 symptoms or viral exposure risks, to seek testing, including at seven free saliva collection centers.
Malcolm said more than 50,000 people have sought testing at these centers, and that week-old sites in St. Paul and Brooklyn Park have collected 5,000 and 18,000 samples, respectively.
County-level infection data on Thursday also showed an increase in school districts — from 25 last week to 34 now — that would be advised to provide only online learning to students.
Schools in another 38 counties would be advised to offer online instruction in high schools and middle schools, and hybrid learning in elementary schools. Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota and Washington counties all fall in that latter group.
A continued bright spot in the pandemic is slow infection growth in colleges and universities. After some flare-ups in September, the rate of new infections at such institutions has leveled off.
Most people suffer mild or no symptoms due to their infections. Minnesota’s total case count includes 137,824 people who have recovered to the point they at least are no longer considered infectious.
Younger and healthier people can easily spread the virus to those at greater risk, though. More than 80% of COVID-19 deaths have involved people 70 or older, including all of the deaths reported Thursday.