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The daily coronavirus update: Walz administration warns of danger signals before Labor Day weekend

Officials warned that Minnesotans could see case spikes like those in Texas and Iowa if they aren’t careful.

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.

Programming note: We’re taking a long weekend off, but will be back with an update on Labor Day. 

Here are the latest updates from September 3:

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78,123 confirmed cases; 1,837 deaths

Seven more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday, for a total of 1,837.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Thursday, three were in their 90s, one was in their 80s, one was in their 70s, one was in their 60s and one was in their 50s. Three of the seven deaths announced Thursday were among residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 1,837 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,348 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 Thursday there have been 78,123 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 1,038 from Wednesday’s count and is based on 13,926 new tests. 264 of those positives were part of an effort to process a backlog of tests. Subtracting the backlog numbers yields a total of 774 new cases reported Thursday. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 6,592 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 272 are currently in the hospital, 138 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 78,123 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 70,175 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

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Walz administration urges Minnesotans to renew focus on slowing virus

Gov. Tim Walz urged Minnesotans to renew their focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Sitting at a test positivity average of more than 5 percent and with more than 30 percent of cases coming from unknown sources, Minnesota has the potential to tip into a much more serious phase of coronavirus spread, health officials said.

Gov. Tim Walz
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Gov. Tim Walz
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said as much in a visit with the state last week, officials said.

“Pretty terrifying to hear the president’s science advisor on this caution us that these were many of the same flashing lights we’re seeing,” as were seen in Arizona before case counts shot up, Walz said. Officials warned that Minnesotans could see case spikes like those in Texas and Iowa if they aren’t careful.

“We’re at a tipping point, a potential tipping point, but we still possess the capacity to push back in the right direction,” Walz said. “I really do believe this Labor Day weekend could have a big impact on that.”

Inside is dangerous; outside is not enough

In recent weeks, many new COVID-19 infections have come from social gatherings large and small.

MDH illustrated an extreme example of this in a wedding reception held in southwest Minnesota with 275 attendees. The event was held indoors without masks, and resulted in 56 attendees across nine counties becoming infected with the virus, not including secondary infections.

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Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said MDH has been made aware that cases are likely higher because people who may be infected are not getting tests to avoid driving case counts up.

She said that failing to acknowledge the problem will only prolong the outbreak, allowing the virus to spread undetected in the community.

In another example, 50 Minnesotans who attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally have confirmed COVID-19 cases. One has died.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
An attendee at Sturgis subsequently went to a wedding instead of self-quarantining after the high-risk event, passing the virus on to others.

Ehresmann reminded Minnesotans that just because they do not believe they are at high risk of developing severe complications due to COVID-19 doesn’t mean they won’t pass the virus onto others who are at high risk, possibly without knowing it. An estimated 40 percent of COVID-19 infections pass without symptoms, and people with the virus may be most infectious before they show symptoms.

Ehresmann reiterated that it’s not just indoor gatherings that are causing the virus to spread in Minnesota. Being outdoors without observing physical distancing and wearing masks can also lead to transmission.

“Even if we’re outdoors, if we’re close together for long periods of time without masking, we see transmission happening,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

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