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State urges vigilance; cases skew younger


July 17, 2020

Wednesday pressed Minnesotans to stay vigilant to slow the spread of COVID-19, emphasizing personal responsibility and cautioning that the recent rapid increase in new cases will lead to more deaths.

They also encouraged families to make plans for others to care for young children should parents and other caregivers fall ill with the disease.

“We are, in fact, at a worrisome point that our numbers are going up,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist, said of the two-week trend in daily case counts. “This really is a moment for all of us to take a step back and think about what we can do to slow transmission.”

While Minnesota “may not be in the worst shape … we are not in the best shape either,” Lynfield told reporters. “Other states and other countries are doing better than us. That should be an inspiration for us to try to work harder.”

Cases climb

Lynfield’s comments came hours after the state Health Department reported a mix of hopeful and concerning COVID-19 data Wednesday — new deaths and intensive care cases continue to slow even as the count of new cases accelerates.

Department data showed eight more deaths from the disease, putting Minnesota’s toll at 1,518 since the pandemic began, continuing a three-week trend of mostly single digit daily deaths.

Current hospitalizations (254) rose from Tuesday even as the count of people currently needing intensive care (106) dipped by one. Still, Minnesota reported another 578 confirmed tests for the disease, part of an overall trend of steeply rising cases seen in the past few weeks.

Carlton County gained eight cases since the week before. It also had a reported case of a teenager in Wrenshall testing positive and causing some quaratines there and a shutdown of volleyball practices.

The county has seen 96 confirmed cases since the pandemic began in March.

Of the 43,742 cases confirmed in the state since the pandemic began, about 87 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

Among those who’ve died, 78 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities, nearly all had long-term health problems.

Lynfield and other officials again implored Minnesotans to wear masks in indoor social spaces, wash hands regularly and socially distance to minimize COVID-19’s spread.

“We know that people are sick and tired of precautions and hearing about precautions” but people shouldn’t let down their guard, Lynfield said. “The virus is out there. We want to be able to live in a pandemic as best we can.”

It will be “a long time in the best scenario” before an effective vaccine becomes available, she said. Until then, “it is really up to us to make the choice to limit the spread.”

Young drive cases

The newest counts come as state health officials continue to worry about the recent spike of coronavirus cases in younger Minnesotans, with current fears including that those infected will inadvertently spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.

Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the age group with the most confirmed cases, with more than 10,000 since the outbreak started. The median age of Minnesotans infected has been trending down in recent weeks and is now below 38 years old.

While current hospitalization counts in Minnesota remain relatively low, “we are likely going to see increases in hospitalizations because of the ripple effect” of younger people becoming infected, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said earlier in the week, adding that young adults “don’t live in a vacuum.”

Parents be wary

On Wednesday, Ehresmann encouraged people to develop plans for children should parents and other caregivers become ill with COVID-19.

As cases rise and more people will need hospitalization, it’s a good idea to develop plans for alternate, short-term care for children should adults in their lives fall sick, she said.

To that end, families should pull together information on children’s medical and educational needs, routines and comforts, Ehresmann added.

The Health Department has posted “make a plan” guidance on its website.

For statewide news on the pandemic, visit the Minnesota Public Radio News website at Pine Knot News reporter Mike Creger contributed to this story.


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