Minnesota reported more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the first triple-digit daily increase since the novel coronavirus appeared in the state just over a month ago.
While Minnesota has thus far avoided the grim toll in hot spots around the country, the numbers continue to grow here. Six newly reported deaths brought the total to 70, about two-thirds of them people in congregate care settings. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals increased to a new high of 157, including 74 in intensive care.
A total of 1,621 cases of the viral illness have been confirmed by tests in Minnesota. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher, but that statistic is unknowable because there isn’t enough testing to reach a reliable estimate.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it a national priority to get more COVID-19 tests into the hands of health care providers, though fresh concerns are emerging about the accuracy of new tests that are flooding the U.S. market.
On Sunday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the agency was working to validate some of the antibody tests that are already on the market. Unlike molecular tests that react to genetic material unique to the virus, antibody tests look for cells that the immune system makes to fight the virus.
Under revised FDA rules, at least 30 molecular tests have received “emergency use authorizations” to go to market with minimal validation, while at least 70 more antibody tests are set to go to market with no independent FDA review, the Star Tribune has reported. There is no national effort to test the tests to see which are the most accurate.
About 4% of COVID-19 tests conducted in Minnesota have come back positive for the virus, while surrounding states like Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin have had positives in 7 to 9% of their tests, which could suggest that Minnesotans are doing comparably well in following public health rules.
On a snowy Easter Sunday, church pews across the state remained empty in adherence to social distancing guidance.
“It is very important for all Minnesotans to do their part in that effort by following social distancing guidelines and other public health recommendations,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement Sunday that accompanied the daily update of COVID-19 statistics.
The state Department of Health released two different COVID-19 totals on Sunday. Initially state officials said there had been 1,536 cases as of about 4 p.m. Saturday. That was up 109 from the previous day, the largest single-day increase since the outbreak started.
A second tally showed 1,621 cases that tested positive, through about 8 p.m. Saturday. The revised tally, measuring four hours longer than normal, brought the one-day case count to 194.
About 80% of people who get COVID-19 after catching the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus will have mild symptoms that don’t require any hospital care, while around 5% of cases may need critical care.
Of the 70 COVID-19-related deaths reported through Saturday night, 47 were residents of long-term congregate living settings, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Minnesotans who died of COVID-19 ranged in age from 56 to 100, with 88 the median age of death.
State officials are closely monitoring the number of ICU patients and the total number of intensive-care beds in the state as they work to ensure Minnesota has enough capacity to meet peak demand in coming months for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
According to public health modeling released by the state on Friday, Minnesota has 2,770 intensive care beds, including 525 regular hospital beds that could be converted for intensive care in a few days’ time. Just under 850 ICU beds were occupied as of Friday, fewer than 10% of them by COVID-19 patients.
Although people with the virus are generally thought to be most contagious when they’re showing symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some people can spread it while they’re not symptomatic.
That has led some public health organizations, including the CDC, to recommend the use of cloth face coverings in public when it’s difficult to stay 6 feet apart, to prevent the spread of droplets on the breath during coughing, sneezing or talking.
Gov. Tim Walz has not mandated the use of face coverings in public in Minnesota, though he has worn one. Other state officials have noted that residents shouldn’t use N95 respirators, as those masks should be conserved for health care workers.