3 things to know:
Active cases jump to new pandemic height again
Positive test rate above 18 percent; officials find 5 percent worrying
1,616 hospitalized, 260 in ICU
Minnesota continues to struggle with a massive COVID-19 wave that started in the Twin Cities metro area but is now engulfing much of the state.
The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show confirmed active cases of more than 67,000 – a number that has more than doubled since the middle of last week.
It is now at the highest point in the pandemic.
According to MPR News calculations, the percentage of COVID tests that come back positive is rising above 18 percent — more than double the 5 percent found by officials and the highest seven-day average in the pandemic.
The post-holiday surge is almost entirely caused by the COVID ommicron mutation.
Hospitals and other care centers are being pushed to the limit with people seeking COVID testing — so much so that CentraCare and Carris Health, which operate in the north-central part of the state, are now limiting testing to people showing symptoms of the virus.
In a statement, the health care providers said they will not test asymptomatic people who are trying to return to work or school, to travel or who are simply repeat testers because they are concerned they are asymptomatic carriers. The new policy went into effect Friday.
On Wednesday, Minneapolis and St. Paul leaders said their cities will temporarily need: either proof of vaccine or a recent negative COVID test for customers at all businesses where food and drink is served. On Thursday, the mayor of Duluth ordered a 30 day mask mandate for indoor public meeting areas. On Friday, the University of Minnesota announced a temporary proof of vaccination or test negative policy for indoor events of 200 or more attendees on all campuses, including those who are not students or university staff.
Data Collected by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Show all counties of Minnesota currently with a high rate of viral spread.
The number of COVID hospitalizations remains high – 1,616 people are hospitalized and 260 require intensive care. Bed use for people with the disease in hospitals in the metropolitan area has passed its December peak and is a hair away from an all-time high.
Hospitals outside the Twin Cities region don’t have as many COVID patients, although this wave hit the subway a week or so before spreading, so that picture may change.
Last week, Minnesota hospital CEOs begged people not to come to the emergency room for COVID testing or other non-emergency care. “Hospitals are literally full,” the group warned. “ICUs are full, emergency departments are full, medical-surgical wards are full, corridors are full and surgeries are canceled.”
On Wednesday, Governor Tim Walz said: he would tap $40 million of the state’s portion of federal COVID relief money to help boost hospital staffing, including nurse costs.
The state’s death toll stands at 10,971 including 32 newly reported deaths on Friday. Deaths usually follow a rise in the number of cases and hospitalizations. In previous COVID-19 waves, this was the last of the key metrics to improve.
Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is now better positioned than it was during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 peaks: 77 percent of state residents ages 12 and older have received at least one shot of vaccination, and nearly 73 percent are now fully vaccinated.
The state is seeing progress in getting boosters in Minnesotans who are already vaccinated.
However, the battle continues to get the first shots in more Minnesotans, especially in central Minnesota. Large gaps in vaccination coverage remain between regions and provinces.
MPR News reporter Catharine Richert contributed to this report.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations fuel clarity in our reporters’ coverage across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspective. Help ensure MPR continues to be a resource that brings Minnesotans together.