More than 2,100 infections with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 were reported Tuesday by Minnesota health authorities, who remain concerned about the continued spread of infections at large group events and social gatherings.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday also reported 15 COVID-19 deaths, bringing state totals in the pandemic to 2,368 deaths and 137,536 infections detected through diagnostic testing.
The current seven-day positivity rate of diagnostic testing increased to 7% on Minnesota’s pandemic dashboard, an indication that the infectious disease is spreading widely and independently of any changes in testing levels. State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said people need to wear masks in public, refrain from large gatherings, and understand the risks of viral transmission as they plan for holiday get-togethers.
“There is a lower risk with smaller groups but that doesn’t mean there is no risk,” she said on Monday. “At the level of transmission that we’re seeing right now in the community, things that may have been relatively safe a month or two ago may no longer be safe.”
Minnesota has now recorded 244 outbreaks in large group social settings, including 71 weddings and 73 social gatherings. Including 19 outbreaks so far in October, weddings have been directly linked to 667 infections.
The state’s pandemic dashboard showed an increase in Minnesota hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients — from 614 reported on Monday to 658 on Tuesday.
The dashboard showed that 165 of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients were in intensive care, but that total ICU usage in Minnesota declined slightly. Only 997 of the state’s immediately available 1,466 ICU beds were occupied by patients with COVID-19 or other unrelated medical issues.
Gov. Tim Walz urged continued mask-wearing and social distancing to prevent more hospitalizations and the need for more restrictions on school or business activities that don’t work as well anyway.
“We can’t overwhelm our hospitals,” he said. “We can’t assume that the therapeutics are going to take care of it or that we’re waiting for a vaccine that will eventually come. We need to take action right now.”
The 15 deaths reported Tuesday included 11 people who lived in private residences. While more than 72% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have involved residence of long-term care facilities, that disparity was mostly due to severe outbreaks in such facilities in the spring. Deaths have been more evenly split between private residences and long-term care facilities for most of the summer and fall.
More than 80% of COVID-19 deaths also have involved people 70 or older. Tuesday’s totals included four people in their 50s and 11 people older.
New infections were reported Tuesday in 82 of Minnesota’s 87 counties, reflecting the continued broad spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Total infections in Minnesota include mostly “confirmed” cases verified by molecular diagnostic testing, but also 390 “probable” cases established by rapid antigen testing. While antigen testing can be faster — as is the case in rapid strep throat tests — the health department for now has classified its results as probable due to a slightly lower accuracy rate.