Minnesota's COVID-19 dashboard is now reporting a higher hospitalization rate than at the peak surge of the pandemic in May.
Newly updated figures on Wednesday showed a current rate of 11.7 hospital admissions per 100,000 people per week, compared to the prior peak of 11 on May 21.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday also reported 19 COVID-19 deaths and 1,916 confirmed and probable infections with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease. That brings totals in the pandemic to 2,387 deaths and 139,444 infections — including 123,529 people who have recovered to the point where they are no longer infectious or required to isolate themselves to protect others.
State health officials now look at COVID-19 hospitalizations in two ways — by the number of Minnesotans with COVID-19 admitted to any hospital in the U.S., and by the number of people with COVID-19 from any state admitted to Minnesota hospital beds. Both data sets show rising pressure on hospitals.
The health department's pandemic situation page showed that at least 671 Minnesotans with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals in the seven-day period ending Oct. 25, the highest such total since the pandemic first emerged in the state in March.
The state's dashboard showed that 680 Minnesota hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients, and that 166 needed intensive care. Only 1,074 of 1,483 immediately available ICU beds were in use by patients with COVID-19 or other unrelated medical problems, though, indicating that Minnesota hospitals have some excess capacity.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have changed in their length and outcomes since the start of the pandemic. In May, a state health review of an initial 1,104 admitted patients found that 15% died. An update last month based on 5,896 admitted patients showed that 10% died.
Average lengths of stay have shortened as well due to improved oxygen management and the availability of treatments such as the antiviral remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone.
Minnesota's positivity rate for diagnostic testing remained at 7%, above the threshold of 5% that state health officials said is in indication of broad spread of the virus throughout the state. The state's count of infections now includes cases confirmed through molecular diagnosed testing, and cases listed as probable through rapid but slightly less accurate antigen testing.
Wednesday's new infections included 112 probables through antigen testing, which is being used more broadly throughout Minnesota and by long-term care facilities to quickly identify and respond to any outbreaks.
Residents of such facilities now make up roughly 70% of all COVID-19 deaths, including 16 of the 19 reported on Wednesday. All deaths reported Wednesday were of people 70 or older, who make up more than 80% of the total COVID-19 fatalities in Minnesota.