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The daily coronavirus update: Fauci cites Minnesota’s ‘insidious’ increase in positive test rate

The Minnesota Department of Health said Monday that the number of confirmed cases is up 613 from Sunday’s count.

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 August 3, 2020:

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56,560 confirmed cases; 1,616 deaths 

Two more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, for a total of 1,616.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Monday, one was in their 80s and one was in their 70s. While neither of the two people whose deaths were announced Monday were residents of long-term care facilities, 1,231 of the 1,616 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota 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 Monday there have been 56,560 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 613 from Sunday’s count and is based on 15,870 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 5,298 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 302 are currently in the hospital, 153 in intensive care. The number of people in the ICU is up by four and has increased by 19 percent over the last week. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 56,560 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 49,565 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

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Fauci says Minnesota among states with ‘insidious’ increase in positive test rate

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday told the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that Minnesota’s “insidious” rising percent of positive COVID-19 tests suggest a future surge like outbreaks that have slammed the southern U.S.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said a pause on reopening is worth considering. Minnesota’s seven-day rolling positive case average is 5.1 percent, up from 5.0 percent this weekend and 4.9 percent on Wednesday. The rate has generally increased slowly since June.

Said Fauci: “It’s become clear now as you look back at the states in the southern region that have surged up … that prior to the surge you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state. Even if it goes up by 1 to 1.5 percentage points, and it continues to go up. It generally does not spontaneously come down.”

State officials, he said, “may need to pause” reopening or “drop back a little bit.”

“I don’t think you necessarily have to revert to going all the way back to closing but you’ve gotta intensify what I consider five or six fundamental things that we know from experience help to blunt resurgences and can prevent resurgences from occurring,” Fauci said. 

Those six things include: consistent, correct wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, keeping at least six feet of physical distance, staying away from places where people congregate like bars, staying outdoor if possible when having a gathering, and practicing proper hygiene. 

Jan Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, said they’ve heard a consistent message from federal health officials lately to take preventative measures. Malcolm said Minnesota has closely tracked the outbreak to calibrate the state’s response, but she said the pandemic has brought a “fairly stable level of new cases” that hasn’t grown beyond roughly 700 new cases per day. “It gives us a sense that we have a little bit of time to watch our trends here,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm added that case investigations have found a lack of compliance with existing guidelines and don’t suggest that Minnesota’s current restrictions are insufficient. One source of noncompliance appears to be bars and restaurants. Not only is indoor dining and drinking a common point of COVID-19 transmission, Malcolm said MDH has received 370 complaints between July 10 and the end of the month about potential bar and restaurant COVID-19 health violations, including 24 on Friday alone.

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And she said health officials remained concerned about large gatherings like the rodeo in Effie and the planned Sturgis motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. (While a person who was infectious with COVID-19 attended the North Star Stampede in Effie, health officials said they have found no other cases tied to the event, though it’s possible they have not been detected yet.)

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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

This story has been corrected to reflect the location of the Sturgis motorcycle rally.