The number of Minnesotans hospitalized for COVID-19 increased by 19, reaching a total of 266, according to new figures for the pandemic released Tuesday by the state Department of Health.
Health officials this week said a slight uptick in hospitalizations could reflect more spread of the infectious disease beyond teenagers and younger adults and into older adults who are more at risk. The hospitalization total includes 112 people requiring intensive care.
“As our case numbers have increased, we are now starting to see over the last week or so a trend upward in hospitalizations,” said state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, although the state’s COVID-19 hospital numbers remain well below a peak in late May.
Malcolm also said the positivity rate from diagnostic testing for the infectious disease has increased to 4.7% — reflecting broader spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That remains well below the state warning level of 15%, though, which had only been exceeded in late April when diagnostic testing was centered on a worker outbreak at the JBS pork plant in Worthington.
The state on Tuesday reported three COVID-19 deaths, continuing a streak of 18 reporting days with fewer than 10 such deaths. The last total in double digits was 13 on July 2. The single-day high in the pandemic was 35 deaths reported on May 28.
The three deaths reported on Tuesday included one person in the 30 to 39 age range. Among the 1,548 deaths in the pandemic so far, only 15 have involved people 39 or younger. The state on Monday reported its first child COVID-19 fatality involving a 9-month-old from Clay County.
The state also reported 352 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, after reporting a single-day high in the pandemic of 922 cases on Monday.
Both totals were affected by the health department’s switch to a new data management system, and the department said in a statement Tuesday that the average between the two of 637 cases per day is more reflective of the spread of the infectious disease in Minnesota right now.
Fluctuations in the daily case count resulted in New York removing Minnesota from its travel restriction list, released on Tuesday. The list now includes 31 other states from which travelers are expected to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
New York places states on the restriction list once a week based on their COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 people and their test positivity rates. New York’s cut point for selecting states appears to have occurred before Minnesota reported its large daily case count on Monday.
Daily counts of lab-confirmed cases have gradually increased in Minnesota since mid-June — partly due to increased diagnostic testing, but also due to the limited reopening on June 10 of bars, restaurants, fitness clubs and entertainment venues.
Health officials on Monday said they initially tracked outbreaks after June 10 among young adults who were likely infected at bars and restaurants. Now, they are seeing outbreaks related to older adults as well and centered on family gatherings, sporting events and other group activities.
“Now we’re at a place where we’ve had more opening up within the state and we’re seeing many more people of all ages engage in more social activities and more interaction,” said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director.
Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials are considering whether to impose a statewide mask-wearing mandate to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the recent uptick in cases from leading to more hospitalizations and deaths. Decisions on how to reopen schools this fall are expected next week.