Seventy-seven more COVID-19 deaths were reported by Minnesota health officials on Wednesday, including two people in their 30s and one person in the 40s age range.
The update from the Minnesota Department of Health brings the death toll to 3,692, despite some otherwise encouraging statistical trends in the pandemic.
The state also reported another 5,192 lab-confirmed infections, bringing the state’s total to 327,477 — including 286,219 people who have recovered to the point they are no longer risks for spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
People 70 and older make up more than 80% of the total COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota. However, Wednesday’s additions included three people in their 50s and five people in their 60s. Only 26 COVID-19 deaths have involved people in their 30s, making the report of two such fatalities on a single day unusual.
Thirty-two of the deaths reported Wednesday involved people who lived in private residences compared to 44 that involved residents of long-term care or assisted-living facilities — who are at elevated risk due to their ages and underlying health conditions.
State health officials warned of continued COVID-19 deaths and rising hospitalizations in the coming weeks, even if infection numbers continue to improve. One of the most-watched pandemic indicators, the positivity rate of diagnostic testing, has continued to drop from a peak of 15.5% on Nov. 11 to 10.9% on Nov. 23, according to the state’s pandemic response dashboard.
Changes in the positivity rate are important because they indicate changes in viral transmission, regardless of the number of diagnostic tests performed.
Daily infection rates have been dropping in Minnesota and surrounding Midwestern states as well over the past week.
However, the most recent infection data does not fully reflect any viral transmission that occurred among families and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, so state health officials have remained guarded in their reaction.
“It’s important that we are cautious in how we’re looking at this particular week,” said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director.
Pressure might be easing on hospitals a bit. Mayo Clinic on Tuesday reported a reduction in the number of workers sidelined with COVID-19 infections or with viral exposures that resulted in 14-day quarantines. The number dropped from 1,500 on Nov. 17 to 1,234.
HealthPartners on Tuesday reported 214 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, including its flagship Regions Hospital in St. Paul, down slightly from 224 on Nov. 24. However, 95% of HealthPartners’ intensive care beds were occupied with patients who had COVID-19 or other unrelated medical issues.
Minnesota health officials urged people to stick with mask-wearing and social distancing, and to comply with Gov. Tim Walz’s four-week order that limits social gatherings to immediate household members only. The state last week also unveiled the COVIDaware MN app that people can use when they test positive for COVID-19 to confidentially alert close contacts of their viral exposure risks.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Minnesota IT Services reported more than 230,000 downloads of the app.