The latest on COVID-19 deaths, case counts and back to school developments in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday that the state has seen “some stability” in both COVID-19 testing and new cases identified since the beginning of the weekend.
On a regular briefing call with media Monday, Malcolm offered a warning that school districts may have to “turn on a dime” with their planned learning models as the COVID-19 pandemic develops – moving among in-person to hybrid to distance learning. She said it is important for school districts to have plans ready for all three.
“We know the school year’s not gonna be easy,” she said. “This is just a very challenging and fluid environment and we know how hard our school personnel are working to try to be prepared for these multiple models.”
Malcolm repeated a call from MDH to students and families to avoid crowds and high-risk settings leading up to the start of the fall school year.
“It’s so important to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to comply with all the public health guidance,” she said. “But also to lay low before you go.”
MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann reminded people living in multi-unit buildings that masks are required in common areas by Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order.
Ehresmann also provided an update on COVID-19 cases among Minnesotans who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota earlier in August, saying that 27 cases have now been identified. Two were employees or volunteers, and 25 were attendees. They are from 24 different households.
Ehresmann said the one person who has been hospitalized so far was released after three days.
“We’re a little early for secondary cases,” Ehresmann said when asked if any family members had been infected.
Ehresmann responded to questions about COVID-19 cases stemming from protests over George Floyd’s death. For comparison, she said 13,418 people were tested in connection with those protests, with 243 of them testing positive. That’s a positivity rate of 1.8%.
RELATED: Scientists say Hong Kong man is first confirmed case of coronavirus reinfection
Ehresmann reacted to reports out of Hong Kong that scientists have confirmed the first case of coronavirus reinfection.
“It’s something that we have been I guess waiting for, or at least paying attention, to see if evidence of reinfection does happen,” Ehresmann said.
She said that the research shows the man in Hong Kong was indeed infected two different times – and didn’t just test positive twice for the same illness.
“Obviously it would have been ideal if there was evidence that infection with COVID produced lifelong immunity,” Ehresmann said.
She said the finding is “a little bit of a disappointment” but doesn’t necessarily mean a vaccine would not be effective.
“We can have effective vaccination even in a situation where someone can be reinfected, like with influenza,” she said. “But this just might change the landscape for what that looks like.”
Ehresmann said this is a reminder that having COVID-19 once doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about the virus anymore.
“Even if you have had COVID in the past you still need to be attentive to these things because obviously there’s this one bit of data, and we expect that there will be more data to come,” she said. “This is one case, so we’re going to have to continue to see what the data look like over time.”
Malcolm said Monday that the numbers suggest the statewide mask mandate has contributed to the stabilization in Minnesota’s cases.
“I think the fact that it helped is pretty clear,” Malcolm said. “The fact that the timing overlaps as clearly as it does … we think is certainly an indication that it’s been helpful.”
Malcolm said MDH has maintained consistently that masks are not the answer on their own, but should be used as a “tool” along with other mitigation measures.
“Compared to where we were concerned that we might be heading a month ago, we’re seeing a more stable situation,” Malcolm said. “But we’re always careful to say that doesn’t mean we can let down our guard.”
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 717 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths on Monday.
That brings the total number of cases to 70,298 across Minnesota since the pandemic began, and the death count stands at 1,771.
The 717 new cases were reported after 12,296 tests were performed throughout the state in the past 24-hour period.
Minnesota’s seven-day average case positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that come back positive, remains at just below 5% as of the most recent publicly available data from Aug. 13.
As of Monday, 310 people are hospitalized in Minnesota and 135 of the patients are in the ICU, according to MDH data.
People ages 20-24 are still the group with the highest number of COVID cases in the state, surpassing the 9,000 mark. They are followed by those 25-29 years old, with 7,178 cases.
Cases among teenagers are growing, with 5,981 currently reported among those 15-19 years old.
Health officials announced no new deaths on Sunday, keeping the total number of fatalities statewide at 1,081. The total number of fatalities is approximately 1.5% of those testing positive for the virus.
Wisconsin health officials say a total of 5,558 people have been hospitalized from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, roughly 8% of the total number of people who have been diagnosed with the virus.
Of the confirmed cases in Wisconsin, 25% involve people between the ages of 20 to 29, 17% are between 30 and 39, 14% are between 40 and 49, and 14% are 50 to 59. An estimated 10% are between 10 and 19, and 9% are between 60 and 69.
As of Sunday, Milwaukee County is reporting the largest number of cases with 23,209 and 479 deaths. Waukesha County reports 5,213 cases and 70 deaths, while Dane County has registered 5,088 cases and 39 deaths.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reporting 728 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, as the state’s total reached 69,584.
1,767 Minnesotans have now died from the virus, with six being added to the count within the last 24 hours.
There are currently 301 Minnesotans in the hospital due to complications from the virus, with 137 of them severe enough to require care in an intensive care unit.
While case counts have tended to skew toward younger demographics, deaths in the state have been hardest felt by Minnesota’s older populations.
Collectively, those 65 and older account for 1,538 or 87% of the state’s total 1,767 deaths.
Of the most common forms of exposure to the virus, community transmission – through known contact or unknown – is blamed for nearly 33,299 or 48% of all COVID-19 cases in the state.
Exposure for roughly 10,920 cases is unknown. Meanwhile, congregate living facilities account for nearly 9,615 cases.
Hennepin County is reporting the state’s highest case count at 21,670, with 866 deaths. This is followed by Ramsey County at 8,594 cases and 285 deaths; and Dakota County at 5,260 cases and 110 deaths.
You can find a more detailed breakdown of COVID-19 information on MDH’s website.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.