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Covid-19 cases surge in state


October 30, 2020

Covid-19’s toll in Minnesota continued its grim ascent Tuesday with the Health Department reporting 15 more deaths, nearly 2,200 more cases and a record number of hospitalizations.

Newly confirmed cases were up on relatively low testing, skyrocketing the positive test rate above 15 percent — more than three times the threshold officials say is concerning.

It’s a jump so startling that MPR News checked with the department to see if it was an error. It was not, although it’s unclear yet if this is an anomaly or evidence of a problematic trend.

State officials had expected that late summer and early fall gatherings would bring a surge of cases in October. They also anticipated the wave would put more people in the hospital — and lead to more deaths. That appears to be happening.

Of the 137,536 cases of the disease confirmed in the pandemic to date, about 89 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

The deaths reported Tuesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 2,368. Among those who’ve died, about 70 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

‘No longer safe’

The newest numbers come a day after Gov. Tim Walz and public health experts painted an increasingly worrisome picture of a Covid-19 outbreak now driven more by people letting their guard down at family gatherings and celebrations, sporting events and informal meetups rather than at stores, restaurants and bars.

The governor’s top health officers again urged Minnesotans to rethink their plans for large family gatherings at Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays, warning they pose a rising risk.

Given the current high levels of community spread in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, get-togethers of “large extended families, multiple families from around the region, that absolutely would be a really, really bad idea this year,” said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director.

There have been more than 70 related outbreaks from weddings since June, and that’s led to more than 600 cases among those attending, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

The “vast majority” of Covid-19 spread is coming from these kinds of events, said Ehresmann. “Things that were relatively safe a month or two ago are no longer safe.”

Reaching for a football metaphor, Walz, a former high school football coach, called on Minnesotans Monday to make a “goal-line stand” against the virus by wearing masks, socially distancing and staying home if you feel ill.

“We can write a different story about what Covid-19 does in Minnesota, but it’s going to take all of us,” he told reporters.

Asked about possible moves to tighten business restrictions given the current surge, Walz said stores and other public settings weren’t the concern they had been earlier.

“It’s just a matter of using the tools that we have in place,” he said, adding that if the pandemic continues to accelerate, he will look for other actions to slow its spread.

Across age groups

New cases are up dramatically over the past month in all age groups.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 30,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 17,000 among people ages 20-24.

The numbers help explain why experts remain particularly concerned about young adults as spreaders of the virus.

While 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 and that spread could hamper attempts to reopen schools and campuses completely to in-person teaching.

The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 12,100 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.

Regionally, central, northern and southern 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.

Northern Minnesota, once the region least affected by the disease, has also seen its caseload grow dramatically in recent weeks.


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