An uptick in COVID-19 activity prompted the city of Minneapolis on Thursday to recommend public indoor mask-wearing again, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Hennepin County at low risk.
The seven-day rate of new COVID cases more than tripled since mid-March to 227 infections per 100,000 people in Minneapolis, and its rate of new COVID-19 hospitalizations more than doubled to 4.8 per 100,000, the city stated in a news release. The hospitalization rate is above Minnesota's COVID-19 caution threshold.
"Minneapolis has used science to guide its public health strategies throughout the pandemic," the city said in its statement. "Data show that because of these strategies we have saved lives."
A CDC update Thursday evening kept Hennepin and most of Minnesota in the low COVID risk range based on local infection and hospitalization numbers. However, Olmsted and Wabasha counties in southeastern Minnesota were moved to the high range, which carries a federal indoor mask-wearing recommendation.
All Minnesota counties surrounding Olmsted and Wabasha rose to the moderate-risk range, and Barron and Rusk counties in northwestern Wisconsin moved into the high range. The four counties are the first beyond the upper northeastern U.S. to have moved back into the high-risk range this spring in response to rising COVID-19 numbers. New versions of the fast-spreading omicron variant have fueled the uptick.
Minnesota reported 284 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, an increase from 183 on April 10. However, only 23 of those hospitalizations required intensive care, and hospital leaders said they are relieved so far that many of the COVID cases in this latest wave are milder.
HealthPartners had no COVID-19 patients in intensive care and reported that more of its hospitalizations were incidental, meaning that people were admitted for other reasons and their infections were discovered upon routine testing.
"We're seeing people that are needing hospitalizations for a much shorter period of time, where it's maybe only a day or two of supplemental oxygen," said Dr. Mark Sannes, a HealthPartners infectious disease specialist.