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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesota nears 50,000 total cases; supply shortages slowing down test results

Five more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 1,566.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Sunday through Friday. The information is published following a press phone call with members of the Walz administration or after the release of daily COVID-19 figures by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Here are the latest updates from July 24, 2020:

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49,488 confirmed cases; 1,566 deaths 

Five more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 1,566.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, one was over 100 years old, one was in their 90s, one was in their 80s, one was in their 70s and one was in their 60s. Two of the five deaths announced Friday were among residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 1,566 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,199 have been among residents of long-term care.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests.

MDH also said Friday there have been 49,488 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 767 from Thursday’s count and is based on 16,789 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 4,852 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 278 are currently in the hospital, 108 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 49,488 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 42,882 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

Federal COVID-19 response team visits Minnesota

Federal health officials came to Minnesota this week to assess the state’s COVID-19 response as known cases continue to rise in the state. Jan Malcolm, MDH commissioner, said a “rapid assistance field team” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deployed to hot spots around the country, and has also looked at places like Minnesota where the pandemic is becoming worse.

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“They’re not waiting for jurisdictions to be already clearly in crisis to come,” Malcolm said.

On Wednesday, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, identified Minneapolis as one of 11 major cities that should take “aggressive” steps to curb an outbreak.

The Star Tribune reported Minneapolis has a rate of 16.5 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people each day, while the state rate is about 11 per 100,000. State data published Thursday shows 133 cases in Hennepin County per 10,000 people, compared to 91 cases per 10,000 people statewide. 

Malcolm said the federal response team was complimentary of the state’s data collection and analysis and finished a final evaluation session Friday morning and were compiling recommendations for the state. “The message I think to Minnesotans was that this was a helpful visit, doesn’t indicate that we’re in some crisis that we haven’t been talking about,” Malcolm said. “We’ve been talking a lot for the last couple of weeks about the fact that our cases are growing and we’re concerned and we need to really double down on complying with the health advice and the executive orders that have been issued.”

Malcolm said the feds offered “nothing specific” about case growth in Minneapolis, but she said the state is “working hard to try certainly to stay on top of analyzing what is going on and what we can trace case growth to.”

Cases being driven by social settings

Kris Ehresmann, MDH’s infectious disease director, said the state is primarily seeing an increase of cases driven by infection in social settings, not work settings. She urged people to be careful about attending bars and other gatherings because they could bring a COVID-19 infection into work and spread it to people who may be more vulnerable.

Malcolm said the median age of known COVID-19 patients continues to drop. It is now 36 years, down from 40 years a month ago.

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Minnesota tries to work around testing delays

MDH officials said shortages of testing supplies have been slowing testing results in Minnesota and the state is trying to find ways to ease the problem.

Malcolm said the state has been trying to buy supplies to “augment what the healthy systems can do,” as well as coordinate testing so that samples go to certain types of machines or testing platforms that aren’t experiencing supply problems at a given time. “So diversifying our approach has been serving us well to date but we are concerned this has the potential of interfering with our desire to ramp up capacity even further from where it is today,” Malcolm said.

Long wait times for test results also interferes with contact tracing because health officials can’t identify and contact people who have been near an infected person as quickly.

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Today on MinnPost

Around the web

  • As long waits for results render COVID tests ‘useless,’ states seek workarounds. Kaiser Health News.
  • South Carolina, a state similar in population to Minnesota, has 1,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and reported 49 deaths Thursday, according to the Post and Courier.
  • A mask mandate in Texas appears to be helping, reports the Texas Tribune, but experts are asking Gov. Greg Abbott not to rule out a shutdown.

MDH’s coronavirus website:

Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920