COVID-19 is a topic where Minnesota is perfectly OK not being ranked No. 1. The state has seen its COVID-19 cases grow lately — but this real increase is small compared to other states in the Upper Midwest.
On Sept. 1, Minnesota was reporting around 140 new cases per million residents per day. This week, that figure is up around 185.
Wisconsin was seeing around 130 new cases per million residents per day on Sept. 1, similar to Minnesota. That’s now up to nearly 420 — more than three times higher. The situation has become so concerning that Wisconsin on Wednesday said it would open a field hospital near Milwaukee.
Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:
106,651 positive cases, 96,616 off isolation
2,195,882 tests, 1,511,141 people tested
5 percent seven-day positive testing rate
North and South Dakota have similarly seen their cases per capita skyrocket far above Minnesota’s levels.
This is true even though Minnesota has higher testing rates for COVID-19 than every state in the region but North Dakota.
By positivity rate, which controls for testing volume, Minnesota has by far the lowest rate in the Upper Midwest, around 5 percent, versus more than 20 percent for Wisconsin and South Dakota.
Minnesota also has the lowest rates in the region for deaths and COVID-19 hospitalizations, controlling for population size.
Minnesota continues to see cases climbing steeply
That’s not to say Minnesota’s out of the woods. The state’s current outbreak showed no signs of abating in numbers released Wednesday, with 918 newly confirmed cases on relatively low testing.
The data followed eight days when average new daily case counts topped 1,000. The trend line of active COVID-19 cases in Minnesota remains at a record high in the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz held a roundtable made up of Minnesotans who have been affected by COVID-19.
They included a man who was put into a medically-induced coma and a doctor who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and now works with coronavirus patients.
Walz said while there is a lot of focus on numbers and statistics, each case or death is a person.
"A small percentage of people have yet been infected by COVID-19,” Walz said. “But the ripple effects through the community on each of these stories, shows you how devastating this can be if we don't get this right."
Kathryn Hall said her mother got COVID-19 while in a care facility. Hall’s mother soon entered hospice, where she died.
"Before my mother was sick, she described COVID as the invisible tiger and the difficulty being that you couldn't see it,” Hall said. “One of our challenges was deciding to go and be with my mom, and knowing what the risk was with that, and grateful that we were able to come through that safely. But these are horrendous choices that people are having to make."
Worries continue around college students, kids
People in their 20s make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 24,500 since the pandemic began, including more than 14,200 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 campuses completely to in-person teaching.
The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 10,000 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
With many schools in Minnesota attempting to teach in-person, officials say they are especially concerned about the rising numbers of teens becoming infected and how that could affect decisions to keep school buildings open.
The Health Department last week identified seven school buildings in Minnesota with five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff who were in those buildings while infectious during a two-week reporting period.
The schools are: Brainerd High School, Albert Lea High School, Isanti Middle School; Fairmont Junior/Senior High School, Martin Luther High School and St. Paul Lutheran School in Martin County; and Hinckley Elementary School.
The fact that only seven schools have five or more such cases is “very positive,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Friday. “We’re not seeing large outbreaks at all associated with a school setting.”
Ehresmann said that the agency had reports of 2,805 COVID-19 cases in the pandemic associated with colleges and universities with nine people needing to be in the hospital and three needing intensive care.
The numbers for colleges or K-12 schools don’t necessarily mean that the disease spread happened in school buildings, only that people were infectious while in a school building, she added.
Surges seen in northern, central Minnesota
Regionally, northern, southern and central 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 by far the region least affected by the disease, has over the last week averaged the most cases per capita.
Collectively, rural areas of Minnesota continue to report the most new COVID-19 cases.
In southwestern Minnesota, at least 75 cases have been traced to a late-August wedding in Lyon County that officials have previously described as the state’s largest single social spreader event.
Thirty-nine cases have now been traced to a Martin County funeral, with one person hospitalized.
Southeastern Minnesota, specifically Winona, has been another hot spot as students return to college at Winona State and other schools. The problem has been compounded by similar outbreaks nearby across the Mississippi River at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.