Wastewater sampling found declining coronavirus levels across Minnesota — an optimistic sign as the state enters year four of the pandemic.
Viral levels on March 5 were down from recent peaks in mid-February, according to the University of Minnesota data, which corresponds with flat or declining COVID-19 hospitalization and death trends.
Minnesota's 370 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday were down from a peak of 633 on Dec. 7, according to the state's weekly pandemic update.
Minnesota is reporting about six COVID-19 deaths per day, which is down from 10 per day in early January but still reflects a persistent threat. More than 92% of Minnesota's 395 COVID-19 deaths so far in 2023 have been in seniors.
The latest breakthrough data suggests COVID-19 vaccine still offers protection in this most vulnerable age group — with deaths being three times more likely during the past two months in unvaccinated seniors compared to those who have received initial shots plus at least one booster dose.
Minnesota passed a milestone this week, because the state confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 6, 2020, in a retired anesthesiologist who had returned from a cruise. Three full years later, the official count of known infections has exceeded 1.7 million in Minnesota, and the death toll has reached 14,449.
The actual infection count is likely higher, given the prevalence of infections that were either asymptomatic or identified through at-home tests that aren't included in Minnesota's counts. Federal seroprevalence estimates in late January suggested that 96% of Minnesota children had antibodies in their blood, indicating prior coronavirus infections.