More than 1,000 Minnesotans living in long-term care and related facilities have died of COVID-19, a milestone that reflects the heavy toll the pandemic has had on elderly and vulnerable people in the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported another 25 deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total for the pandemic to 1,274 — including 1,015 in long-term care. The state also reported another 490 lab-confirmed cases, bringing the known total of cases of the infectious disease to 29,795.
So far, 82% of the deaths in Minnesota from COVID-19 involved people 70 or older — despite the majority of known infections being diagnosed in people 49 and younger. Underlying health conditions have greatly increased odds of severe cases, including diabetes, asthma and diseases of the lungs, heart, kidneys and the immune system.
Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients dropped slightly on Friday to 403 — including 191 needing intensive care due to severe respiratory or other symptoms. That is the lowest number since early May.
Growth of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota has ebbed so far in June, but health officials remain concerned about the potential for a surge in cases as state restrictions ease. A recent uptick in cases in more than a dozen states that scaled back restrictions earlier than Minnesota underscored that concern.
Increased diagnostic testing capacity is part of the state strategy to track and respond to any such uptick in Minnesota. The state on Thursday reported 13,391 diagnostic tests — the second-highest daily tally of testing in the state so far in the pandemic.
Despite the growing number of deaths involving long-term care facility residents, state health officials are seeing progress following an increased strategy of testing and monitoring of health among facility staff and residents.
The number of new long-term care facilities reporting outbreaks has declined from 23 per day five weeks ago to five per day last week.
“It is reassuring that the average number of new facilities with cases is clearly decreasing,” said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director.