Five COVID-19 deaths and 432 infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the disease were reported Tuesday by Minnesota health officials, who urged parents to keep sick children at home to avert a new school-fueled wave of the pandemic.
Some indicators of the severity of the pandemic have taken hopeful turns, with the current positivity rate of diagnostic testing dipping back below 5% and COVID-19 hospitalizations reaching a two-month low this week. The state on Tuesday reported 238 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 131 people in intensive care.
On the other hand, the 65 deaths reported since last Tuesday are the most in a seven-day period since late June. The state in total has reported 1,927 COVID-19 deaths and 85,351 lab-confirmed infections with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Tuesday said the latest numbers reflect a high but manageable growth in infections and COVID-19 cases this summer that has been surprising amid exponential growth in other states.
“It’s somewhat of an unusual pattern,” she said. “We’re very grateful that we haven’t tipped into that more exponential growth that many states have seen but ... having this high level of cases day after day keeps us in a situation that calls for very much continued vigilance.”
State health and pediatric leaders on Tuesday urged parents to follow public health guidance and keep children home when sick and quarantine them for 14 days if they have sustained a moderate risk of exposure to the virus.
Despite a limited reopening of schools — with many offering online-only classes or a blend of online and in-person learning — health officials are worried that the resumption of K-12 classes could fuel more spread of the virus.
State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the length of the quarantine might be frustrating for parents and children but is related to the fact that it can take 14 days after infection with the virus to produce symptoms. Children need to complete it even if they have negative COVID-19 test results because the virus could emerge later, she added.
“You can’t test out of quarantine after an exposure,” she said.
Ehresmann also noted that the rate of lab-confirmed infections traced back to unknown community sources is 34%, meaning the virus is spreading widely throughout the state.
“All the more reason that we have to be cautious when we think about what’s going on or could go on in our schools,” Ehresmann said.
The state also is monitoring outbreaks of at least one case at 67 of Minnesota’s 200 colleges and universities. The state has reported 868 COVID-19 cases involving students or staff of colleges — though only 164 involved people living on campus at the time of their infections. Twenty-five colleges have five or more cases and three reported 100 or more in the past two weeks.