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Updated 12:07 p.m.
Minnesota continues to see a surge of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but with some glimmers of hope within the numbers.
The Health Department Tuesday reported 6,423 newly confirmed or probable cases of the disease and 38 more deaths. More than 1,800 people are in Minnesota hospitals, including more than 350 needing intensive care. The numbers have leaped since Nov. 1.
While Tuesday showed the the second-highest ever day of new COVID-19 admissions, there was some small encouragement: the trend line has been flat the past two days.
Officials, though, have been bracing Minnesotans to expect more hospitalizations as new cases climb.
They remain concerned about another possible hospitalization jump in a few weeks following Thanksgiving holiday gatherings where family members and friends without symptoms may unknowingly spread the virus.
Of the 282,916 confirmed or probable cases identified to date, about 83 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The deaths reported Tuesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 3,303. Among those who’ve died, about 68 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
The newest numbers arrived minutes after Gov. Tim Walz released the outlines of a plan to aid bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses and their workers hurt by the current ban on in-person service, which runs until Dec. 18.
Caseloads spread across age groups
New cases have been climbing over the past month among all age groups.
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 56,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 30,000 among people ages 20 to 24. The rapid increase, however, has tapered off.
The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 22,000 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
The numbers help explain why experts remain particularly concerned about teens and young adults as spreaders of the virus.
Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations.
It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
Walz said recently the state has data showing infection rates rising around bar and restaurant activity after 9 p.m. among young adults, noting that people who have the virus but don’t have symptoms are unwittingly spreading it.
Virus surges across rural Minnesota
Regionally, central and northern Minnesota have driven much of the recent increase in new cases while Hennepin and Ramsey counties show some of the slowest case growth in the state.
The fastest growing outbreaks remain largely along the state’s western border with the Dakotas, where the virus is spreading unchecked. But new cases are rising everywhere in Minnesota.
Collectively, rural areas continue to report the most new COVID-19 cases per capita.
Latino cases climb
In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.
Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.
Similar trends hold true for Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
Cases among all races and ethnicities continue to rise, although currently the growth is slowest among Black Minnesotans, who reported the most new COVID-19 cases per capita for much of the spring and summer.
Walz, GOP ready plan to aid businesses, workers hurt by new COVID curbs
Democrats and Republicans at the Capitol seem poised to find a compromise that would help some 14,000 bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses in Minnesota hurt by the restrictions forced by COVID-19.
Walz on Tuesday unveiled the basics of his plan to provide financial help for restaurant and bar owners and workers hurt by the current COVID-19 restrictions.
The proposal includes:
Direct aid to affected businesses and regulatory fee waivers for bars, restaurants, event centers, craft breweries.
Extending jobless benefits for 13 more weeks, a move the state said will help up to 100,000 workers whose benefits currently end next month, and a $500 one-time emergency payment to struggling families.
A one-time grant to restaurants to provide food for healthcare workers, homeless shelters and long-term care operations.
The governor, who signaled the move on Monday, hasn’t yet put a dollar figure to the cost, but he called the need to aid those businesses and workers “absolutely critical.”
Walz said he’s ready to call another special legislative session to offer COVID-19 relief and expressed hope of reaching a compromise with GOP lawmakers.
“The ball is rolling now,” Walz said Tuesday morning. He said he was “super hopeful” a deal can been reached with Republicans in the next week or so.
Republicans posted their own package Tuesday that includes some $400 million in direct grants.
State Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said swift action is critical.
“My hope would be that we can have money in their pockets within 30 days,” he told MPR News. “Knowing that it’s coming for these operators and knowing that we have relief on the way will allow them to sleep a whole lot better and to be able to communicate to their employees that life is going to get better.”
Listen to Gov. Tim Walz speak on his proposal to aid bars and restaurants hurt by the current COVID-19 restrictions:
Developments around the state
Fourth Minnesota inmate dies of COVID
A 73-year-old man with COVID-19 who had been incarcerated at the Minnesota state prison in Oak Park Heights died on Sunday at a Minneapolis hospital.
According to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the man had recently tested positive for the coronavirus while receiving medical care for terminal cancer. The Department of Corrections says it’s not known where the man contracted COVID-19. His name is being withheld until his relatives are notified.
This is the fourth COVID-19-related death of a person incarcerated in the state prison system since the pandemic began.
The Department of Corrections has struggled to contain outbreaks of the virus at several prisons, including Stillwater, St. Cloud and Faribault. The state reports a total of 558 current positive cases of COVID-19 among people in prison. Eight are hospitalized.
— Kirsti Marohn | MPR News
Mayo Clinic seeks people interested in participating in vaccine trials
Mayo Clinic said Monday it’s launched a COVID-19 registry that will identify people interested in participating in upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
People who add their name to the registry may be contacted in the future to determine if they are eligible to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial at Mayo Clinic.
People can enroll in the COVID-19 Vaccine Registry by completing this vaccine registry form or calling the COVID-19 vaccine registry at 507-293-3383.
— MPR News Staff
Allina CEO: ICU beds full, ‘no sign of letup’ as COVID cases surge
Minnesota reported record levels of COVID- 19 testing and a pause in the rapid rise of new cases over the weekend, but health providers say they’re still struggling with the pressure of existing illnesses.
Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler says there’s no sign of letup in hospitals around the state, including Allina’s.
Wheeler said the ICU beds in Allina Health hospitals were full over the weekend. There are enough medical supplies and beds for now, she said, but staffing is critically short, as Allina workers have to stay home because of COVID-19. Wheeler said many of them are doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other front line workers.
“Close to 800 [employees] are sidelined and it’s almost all still through community spread that they’re either being exposed to the virus and are testing positive for the virus themselves,” she told MPR News on Monday.
Wheeler said the peak of hospital admissions has been following peaks in case numbers by about 12 days, so hospitals are likely to remain full and concentrated on caring for COVID-19 patients through the Thanksgiving holiday. Allina is continuing to monitor nonemergency procedures, trying to balance COVID-19 cases with other necessary medical care, she added.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
Free COVID testing site opens in Bloomington
The state is adding another COVID-19 testing site to its roster, this one in Bloomington.
The site opens Monday at Ridgeview Elementary, where people can get coronavirus tests at no cost even if they don’t have insurance or symptoms.
The Bloomington site is among more than two dozen the state is operating around Minnesota where people can get nasal swab tests or saliva tests to see if they are carrying the virus. That’s in addition to a saliva test people can now do in their homes at no cost through a mail-order service.
The state is advising college students to seek testing before they head home for the holidays and isolate until they get a result and leave for travel.
But officials warn that a single negative test does not mean you don’t have the virus.
Dr. William Morice, president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, says there is no single test for COVID-19 that is 100 percent accurate.
“So unfortunately, while a negative test might give you some reassurance that you don’t have the virus, it can’t be used to consider yourself scot-free, if you will, or free and clear of the virus,” he said.
A negative test result might give people some measure of security, but they should still wear masks and practice social distancing to prevent spreading the virus, Morice said.
— Catharine Richert and Kirsti Marohn | MPR News
State prepares to roll out first rounds of COVID-19 vaccines: As two COVID-19 vaccines approach approval from the Food and Drug Administration, state officials ready their plan to distribute vaccines. They say getting most people the vaccine will be critical to snuffing out a virus that has killed thousands of Minnesotans.
COVID-19 awareness campaign targets northern Minnesota county: It took months for COVID-19 to gain a foothold in Roseau County, on Minnesota’s northern border. But now the virus is spreading rapidly and this week county officials are starting a comprehensive public campaign to convince residents to take the threat seriously.
Lawmakers look for ways to help businesses, workers: With another round of COVID-19 restrictions taking effect late Friday, Minnesota lawmakers are looking for ways to help small businesses that might be forced to close and the employees who would be put out of work. Discussions are already underway about what the state can do and when it could happen.
A guide to navigating your virtual Thanksgiving: With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Minnesota, many families are planning to swap their traditional in-person Thanksgivings for virtual celebrations. But how will that work? We provide some tips for families to keep their video calls on track, along with a collection of activities to keep everyone entertained.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
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