Minnesota is now meeting three of five “dial back” targets that evaluate how the state is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether it can ease up on restrictions designed to slow the spread of the infectious disease.
Diagnostic testing has surged since the start of May above the state target of 50 tests per 10,000 people over seven days to 138 tests per 10,000 people, according to updates published Tuesday morning on the state’s COVID-19 dial back dashboard. The latest testing data also showed a positivity rate of less than 4%.
Health officials see those two statistics working together — with total testing volume ensuring adequate surveillance, and a low positivity rate suggesting a slower spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
New figures from the Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday morning showed 429,145 diagnostic tests so far and lab-confirmation of 30,882 cases of COVID-19. The health department also reported an additional nine deaths from COVID-19, raising the total in the pandemic to 1,313 — including 1,041 residents of long-term care facilities.
COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in more than 20 states, including Iowa, according to the national COVID Exit Strategy website. Minnesota health officials on Monday expressed relief that case growth in this state is declining but concern that this trend could reverse as it did recently in other states such as Arizona.
The dashboard targets assess the effectiveness of Minnesota’s strategies to slow the spread of the virus. The state’s current restrictions include limiting social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors; indoor restaurant and bar service at 50% capacity; and church services and other mass events at no more than 250 people. Social distancing measures that keep unrelated groups spaced 6 feet part are recommended as well, and mask-wearing in public is encouraged.
The rate of new cases doubling in Minnesota has now slowed to 62 days — well below the state threshold of seven days. State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on Monday that this was no longer as meaningful a dial back measure as it was earlier in the pandemic when there were fears of exponential case growth.
Minnesota is falling short on one of its self-imposed dashboard targets, though. Contact tracing investigations were unable to specify how people were infected in 34% of COVID-19 community exposures in the first week of June. That means the virus still is spreading beyond the ability of health officials to contain it by quarantining anyone with a known exposure risk.
The state’s rate of new hospital admissions is above the target of four per 100,000 people as well. The seven-day average as of June 7 was 6.6 admissions, but that rate has been declining since mid-May and the number of hospitalized patients declined even further in the most recent week.
The state listed 357 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals on Tuesday, including 185 who needed intensive care. That was down from 455 hospitalizations on June 7, and a peak of 606 on May 28.