State health officials urged Minnesotans to seek testing if suffering COVID-19 symptoms and to comply with a state testing research survey, in response to a pandemic that has caused 1,979 deaths and 91,422 confirmed infections.
The toll of the pandemic includes 10 deaths reported by Minnesota health authorities on Tuesday and 513 infections with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The state also reported on Tuesday that 290 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 — a third straight daily increase after a monthlong decline from 337 hospitalizations on Aug. 11.
The latest data comes as the Minnesota Department of Health ramps up diagnostic testing to identify more infections — even those in people with mild or no symptoms — that could fuel more spread of the virus across the state. With 36% of recent infections coming from unknown community sources, health officials believe the virus is spreading widely.
State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said there have been more reports of people with symptoms refusing testing, because they fear they will be required to isolate themselves for days if they are carrying the infection, or worry that positive cases could disrupt classes and athletics at local K-12 schools.
“While this may be tempting in the short term, it actually makes it harder for all Minnesotans because it boosts the risk of COVID spreading to others in your school, your athletic team, your church, your workplace, and some of those people [exposed to the virus] may be at high risk for complications,” she said. “And so ultimately we will find the cases even via a circuitous route.”
Nine of 10 deaths reported Tuesday involved people 70 or older — who have made up 80% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. Only half were residents of long-term care facilities — reflecting a growing share this summer of COVID-19 deaths in people who live in private residences rather than congregate settings.
The state as part of its expansion is offering free COVID-19 testing clinics in several Minnesota communities over the next four weeks, and unveiled its first clinic in Duluth that is collecting and analyzing saliva samples rather than harder-to-collect nasal or throat samples.
Testing activity already has surged — with more than 120,000 results by private and public labs over the last seven days being posted by the Health Department.
Lab-confirmed infections reflect only a fraction of the total, though, with the CDC estimating earlier this summer that there were as many as 10 unknown infections for every positive test result.
In an attempt to understand the true spread of COVID-19, the state this month is sending surveyors to 180 neighborhoods in Minnesota, where they are going door to door and offering free diagnostic testing for active COVID-19 cases and antibody testing to find people who were preciously infected.
Health officials urged the public to help these surveyors by welcoming them and considering whether to agree to their offers of voluntary testing. Health officials acknowledged an incident last week in which surveyors were confronted by three men, including one who was armed, but that it was an isolated misunderstanding.
“We are concerned and we understand that this is a time of anxiety and a time that anxiety can bring fear,” state Assistant Health Commissioner Dan Huff said, “but it is really important to remember that everyone who is engaging in this response is doing so so that we can protect the health and the lives of as many people in Minnesota as possible.”