Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Bad numbers accelerate as pandemic digs in

3 things to know:

  • Active cases jump again to new pandemic high

  • Positive test rate exceeds 18%; officials find 5 percent concerning

  • 1,616 hospitalized, 260 in intensive care

Minnesota continues to battle a massive outbreak of COVID-19 that started in the Twin Cities metro area but is now overwhelming much of the state.

The most recent figures from the state health department show confirmed active cases top 67,000 – a number that has more than doubled since the middle of last week.

It is now at its peak in the pandemic.

The percentage of COVID tests that come back positive is over 18%, according to MPR News calculations – more than double the 5% that officials find concerning.

The post-holiday surge is almost entirely due to the omicron mutation of COVID.

Hospitals and other care centers are being pushed to their limits with people seeking a COVID test – so much so that CentraCare and Carris Health, which operate in the north-central part of the state, are now limiting testing to people who show symptoms. virus symptoms.

In a statement, health providers said they would not test asymptomatic people trying to return to work or school, to travel or who are just repeat testers because they fear they may be carriers. asymptomatic. The new policy began on Friday.

On Wednesday, leaders in Minneapolis and St. Paul said their cities would temporarily require either proof of a vaccine or a recent negative COVID test for customers of all businesses where people eat and drink. On Thursday, the mayor of Duluth ordered a 30-day mask mandate for indoor public gathering spaces. On Friday, the University of Minnesota announced a temporary proof of vaccination or negative test policy for indoor events of 200 or more attendees on all campuses, including for people who are not students or staff of the University.

Data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that all counties in Minnesota are currently experiencing a high level of viral spread.

Hospitalizations for COVID remain high – 1,616 people are hospitalized and 260 need intensive care. Bed utilization for people with the disease in hospitals across the metro area has passed the peak in December and is a hair’s breadth away from an all-time high.

Hospitals outside the Twin Cities area don’t have as many COVID patients, although this wave hit the Metro about a week before spreading, so that picture may change.

Last week, Minnesota hospital CEOs pleaded with people not to go to the emergency room to seek COVID tests or other non-emergency care. “Hospitals are literally full,” the group warned. “Intensive care units are full, emergency departments are full, medical-surgical units are full, hallways are full and surgeries are cancelled.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz said he would take $40 million from the state’s share of federal COVID relief money to help bolster hospital staff, including costs for nurses.

The death toll in the state stands at 10,971, including 32 newly reported deaths on Friday. Deaths generally follow a rise in cases and hospitalizations. In recent waves of COVID-19, this was the last of the key metrics to improve.

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 peaks: 77% of state residents ages 12 and older have received at least one vaccine, including nearly 73 % are now fully vaccinated.

The state is seeing progress in getting boosters among Minnesotans who have already been vaccinated.

However, the struggle continues to get the first shots on more Minnesotans, especially in central Minnesota. Wide gaps remain in vaccination rates between regions and counties.

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert contributed to this report.

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