Another 745 new confirmed COVID-19 cases were announced Thursday by Minnesota health officials as the state surpassed more than 1 million diagnostic tests.
Since the first case was detected in the state in mid-March, 53,692 residents have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
A total of 1,007,882 patient samples have been processed, with 14,821 reported Thursday. Because some are tested more than once, the number of people tested is about 821,000.
Five additional deaths were reported Thursday, for a pandemic total of 1,594.
Three of the new deaths were residents of long-term care facilities.
COVID-19 case numbers have steadily been rising in the state, and there are reports that test results are delayed by several days — both factors that are putting stress on the state’s health care system.
Mary Krinkie of the Minnesota Hospital Association told a state Senate panel Wednesday that testing delays are affecting staffing at hospitals, particularly in rural parts of the state.
Hospital workers who are exposed to those infected with COVID-19, usually family members, cannot return to work until they test negative, even if they don’t have symptoms.
But with results of tests delayed five to six days, it is putting pressure on hospitals to maintain staffing levels.
“This is potentially a real problem for our providers,” Krinkie said. “We need to prioritize testing for our health care workers.”
The recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases is also now being seen in rising numbers of hospitalized patients, including intensive care cases.
This comes at a time when several metro area hospitals that specialize in trauma cases are seeing intensive care patient loads increase, as is typical during the summer.
Of the state’s 1,224 staffed intensive care beds, 85% were full, Krinkie said. But most of the patients were not being treated for COVID-19, which accounted for 17% of intensive care.
Some metro trauma hospitals have recently had to divert patients to other facilities because of capacity shortages, Krinkie said.
“The availability of additional ICU bed capacity is really very dependent on how we can keep our workforce healthy,” Krinkie said.
As of Thursday, 298 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, a decrease of 12 from the previous day. There were 141 in intensive care, a decrease of two.
Overall, those needing hospital care has been increasing recently.
Health officials have been watching the hospitalization numbers closely as case counts have been on the rise over the last few weeks.
“As we have feared, we are seeing our hospitalizations beginning to increase and I don’t think that it is just a blip,” said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director. “Unfortunately I think it is going to continue to increase.”
Most who require hospital-level care are those with underlying health conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and kidney disease.
Most people who get infected don’t need medical attention, and they typically recover at home. Since the pandemic began, 49,965 no longer need to be isolated.