Six months after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, state health officials Friday reported that an additional 13 Minnesotans have died from the virus.
All told, COVID-19 has claimed 1,897 lives across the state out of 82,716 cases reported since the pandemic hit the Midwest in March, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Worldwide, more than 900,000 people have died from the virus.
Seven of the deaths reported Friday were in long-term care facilities, while 484 new cases were confirmed throughout the state, officials said.
“These first six months feel like six years,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. “We still have much more time to live with this virus.”
The grim anniversary comes as the number of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus has declined after peaking over the summer. But scientists say another surge could hit this fall as people head indoors and perhaps relax social distancing protocols.
At the same time, health officials in Minnesota are preparing for the fall flu season, fearing a “twin-demic” of COVID-19 and the traditional flu.
Such a phenomenon, should it occur, could tax emergency rooms and intensive care units throughout the state. Health officials are encouraging Minnesotans to get vaccinated for influenza.
Since the state’s first case of COVID-19 was reported in early March, hospital stays have been required in 6,863 cases. About 1.7 million Minnesotans have been tested for the virus.
Results reported Friday showed the most new cases in Hennepin County — 109 — followed by Anoka County, with 40 cases.
Data released Friday do not take into account students returning to the classroom this week or social gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. Health Department officials say it will take two to three weeks before these test results are tallied, meaning the earliest reveal could come late next week.
“This virus will continue to keep transmitting to large groups of people,” Osterholm said, noting only 10 to 12% of the U.S. population has been infected so far.
“The question is, ‘Will we have a vaccine, when will we have it, how much will be available and how will it be distributed?’ ” he said. “They are huge questions.”
Several companies are testing vaccines globally. This week, HealthPartners suspended recruitment of participants into a COVID-19 vaccine trial by drugmaker AstraZeneca after a recipient of the experimental vaccine in the United Kingdom experienced a potential adverse event.
The Bloomington-based health care provider filled 1,019 of its 1,500 slots in the national trial in just 24 hours.
A viral respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus, COVID-19 was found circulating late last year.
People 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities and those with underlying medical conditions are at the greatest risk for catching the virus.
The majority of patients with COVID-19 don’t need to be hospitalized because the illness usually causes mild or moderate sickness.
Studies also suggest that up to 45% of those who are infected won’t have symptoms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.