A single-day record of 67 COVID-19 deaths was reported by Minnesota health officials Wednesday, pushing the state's pandemic total above 3,000.
As cases have surged this fall, the pace of COVID-19 fatalities has also quickened.
It took Minnesota just 55 days to go from 2,000 to 3,000 COVID-19 deaths. By comparison, it took 71 days after Minnesota reported its first COVID-19 fatality on March 21 to reach 1,000 deaths, and then 120 days after that to reach 2,000.
"Today marks a somber milestone in the pandemic as we surpass 3,000 Minnesotans lost to COVID-19," Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement Wednesday, the same day he announced renewed COVID-19 restrictions. "We are at a breaking point. As hospitals near the crisis of turning away new patients, continuing as things are is simply not sustainable."
Minnesota has one of the highest rates of new infections in the United States — with the Dakotas continuing to have the nation's worst rates.
Another 5,102 new infections were reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 242,043 cases.
With the new one-day record for deaths — the last high of 56 was set seven days ago — Minnesota has lost 3,010 lives to the pandemic.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 also reached a single-day high — with the state's pandemic response dashboard Wednesday showing 1,706 hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients.
That includes 355 patients receiving intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications from their infections. COVID-19 patients now make up 31% of the 1,153 patients in ICU beds.
Statewide, 80% of the 1,440 ICU beds are in use due to COVID-19 and other medical conditions, while 408 beds could be readied for intensive care within 72 hours if needed, depending on staff availability.
To address the rising pressure on bed capacity, hospitals have begun to defer non-urgent surgeries. The current patient volume is akin to a severe flu season, but hospitals are seeing 5% daily growth in patient volume that will exceed their capacities in the coming weeks.
"At some point we will have all of those beds filled with either emergency patients or COVID patients," said Dr. Greg Beilman, incident commander for M Health Fairview's COVID-19 response. "We will need help as a society to deal with how to help patients who come into hospitals at greater numbers than those."
The rapid increase in the COVID-19 pandemic is reflected in the positivity rate of diagnostic testing — which is now at 15.3%, according to Minnesota's dial-back dashboard.
The last time the positivity rate was this high was April 29, when diagnostic tests were limited and reserved for people in workplaces or long-term care facilities who were more likely to have COVID-19. Now, testing is being offered to anyone, regardless of symptoms, and is happening broadly and at 10 free state saliva test sites across Minnesota.
Health officials have urged people to wear masks in public, maintain social distancing, avoid crowds and stay home when sick to slow the spread of the virus. Many people can be infected without symptoms, allowing them to spread the virus to others at greater risk without knowing it.
Wednesday's 67 deaths included 51 people who lived in long-term care, residents who were at elevated risk due to their age and underlying health problems. More than 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have involved people 70 or older, and more than 68% have involved long-term care residents.