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The daily coronavirus update: 94 more deaths, even as case rates drop from peak

The 94 deaths announced Friday are the second-most reported in one day so far during the pandemic. 

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 December 11, 2020:

370,968 cases; 4,292 deaths

Ninety-four more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 4,292.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, one was over 100 years old, 18 were in their 90s, 26 were in their 80s, 30 were in their 70s, 13 were in their 60s, four were in their 50s and two were in their 30s. Fifty-two of the 94 people whose deaths were announced Friday were residents of long-term care facilities.

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The 94 deaths announced Friday are the second-most reported in one day so far in the pandemic, and bring the December death toll to 699. After only 11 days, December is now the second-deadliest month of the pandemic, ahead of May (696) and behind November (1,136). 

MDH also said Friday there have been 370,968 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 3,750 from the total announced on Thursday and is based on 58,497 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 13.1 percent, but Friday’s one-day positivity rate was roughly 6.4 percent. Officials say a rate above 5 percent signals a high level of transmission.

The most recent data available show 343 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 1,118 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

Data show improvement, but risks remains

Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Friday that it appears the pandemic in Minnesota is improving as case rates drop from a peak.

Hospitalizations and deaths remain high, but those severe cases follow infections after a lag period and are in part caused by past spikes in transmission. Walz said it’s unclear if his four-week closure of bars, in-house dining and fitness centers led to the decline in COVID-19 cases, or if people simply changed behavior and opted to gather less when they saw cases escalate. But either way, he said, “it looks like you’re making a difference.”

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“It’s important Minnesotans, though, to say thank you,” Walz said. “It appears like you did what was needed.”

Still, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it is too early to tell if the state avoided a rise in cases from Thanksgiving and said daily case counts remain far higher than they should be. 

“We have all gotten used to these high numbers and we are very grateful that the increases have slowed and come down a bit,” Malcolm said. “It boggles my mind, really, to think that 3,000 cases a day feels like a good number to us. This is still an extremely high rate of virus in the communities.”

Malcolm said 10 new cases a day for every 100,000 people is considered the sign of an “out-of-control virus” by the feds. Minnesota, on that metric, is at 85 new cases a day per 100,000 people. Malcolm said several weeks ago the state had nearly 120 new cases per day per 100,000, but Minnesota is “still many times over what we would consider to be a high-risk threshold.”

Several health care professionals told reporters their staff is still spread thin and exhausted, despite the slight slowdown in cases lately. A spike could still overwhelm staff.

Walz says more time needed to decide on extending restrictions

Walz told reporters he needed more time to take in data on the state’s pandemic before deciding whether to re-open businesses shuttered by his public health orders or extend those restrictions.

The governor’s latest four-week stop on much of public life expires Dec. 18. Though Walz said he hoped to give businesses some lag time to plan for whether to open or not, he said “we’re going to need a little bit more time to get this right.” Walz is expected to give more details on his plans for businesses like gyms and restaurants Wednesday.

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Walz has faced pushback from some over his restrictions lately. People who want youth sports to resume are suing the governor, and GOP lawmakers have joined the fitness industry in calling for gyms to re-open. A restaurant in Grand Forks opened for in-house dining this week, defying Walz’s order.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

MDH’s phone line for COVID-19 questions, Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m: 651-297-1304

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