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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesota passes 4,000 total deaths; state revises quarantine guidelines

The revised quarantines come after new guidance from the CDC and it is hope they will increase compliance.

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 7, 2020:

356,152 cases; 4,005 deaths

Minnesota passed what Gov. Tim Walz called a “grim milestone” Monday: more than 4,000 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19. The state passed 3,000 deaths on Nov. 18.

The death toll includes twenty-one more Minnesotans whose deaths were announced Monday, for a total of 4,005. Death numbers are typically lower in the early week, due to reporting delays over the weekends. An average of 59 deaths have been reported daily in December so far, compared to an average of 38 daily in November.

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Of the people whose deaths were announced Monday, three were in their 90s, 10 were in their 80s, three were in their 70s, three were in their 60s and two were in their 50s. Eight of the 21 people whose deaths announced Monday were residents of long-term care facilities.

MDH also said Monday there have been 356,152 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 5,290 from the total announced on Sunday and is based on 63,573 new tests. The seven-day positivity average, which lags by a week, ticked up slightly to 11.2 in the most recent data. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Hospitalizations, while still much higher than they were earlier in the fall, ticked down slightly. The most recent data available show 362 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 1,205 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.

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Minnesota revising quarantine recommendations

State officials announced Monday that Minnesota is revising its quarantine guidance to align with an option the Centers for Disease Control has offered states to reduce quarantine times in the hopes of increasing compliance.

While the CDC had, until recently, recommended people with high-risk exposure to coronavirus quarantine for 14 days to make sure they did not develop COVID-19 and infect others, the agency has revised that number downward in some cases.

In Minnesota, health department officials said 14 days remains the gold standard that should be followed when people are able. People should also observe the full 14-day quarantine if the high-risk exposure is a household member, or if they live in or works in settings like congregate care, health care, or housing, which are high-stakes or where it’s hard to quarantine away from others. Otherwise, in many cases quarantines may be shortened to:

  • Ten days if a person has no symptoms (including small ones like a headache), AND if the person is closely monitoring themselves for symptoms, wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing through the 14 days. The CDC estimates the risk of transmission post-quarantine in these cases is 1 percent, but up to 10 percent.
  • Seven days if a person tests negative via PCR test at least five days after their last contact with the person who exposed them, which is typically enough time for a person to have a detectable amount of virus in their system to test positive. Plus, they should monitor themselves for symptoms closely and, if they have none (again, including small ones like a headache), still wear a mask, social distance and wash hands for the full 14 days. The CDC estimates the risk of transmission post-quarantine in these cases is 5 percent, but up to 12 percent.

State officials acknowledged that adopting the new guidance comes with extra risk, but hope that the shortened time frame will increase compliance. More information can be found here.

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Expect news on business restrictions, holiday restrictions by next week

Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers seem to have plateaued in recent days, but Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm cautioned that the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings aren’t yet known.

As those effects become clearer, Walz said he hopes to announce what restrictions will be in place over the holiday season around the end of the week. He did not sound optimistic that restrictions would be lifted significantly.

“I don’t think that the 50 states in this country are going to open up and people are going to fly unmasked and have massive holiday gatherings. That is not going to happen, nor should it happen,” Walz said, urging Minnesotans to buckle down and stop the spread of the disease as a vaccine is believed to be in reach (the Food and Drug Administration may approve Pfizer’s this week).

Walz also said he plans to announce whether the current “pause” period, which closed indoor dining, gyms and other businesses, will expire or continue at the end of this week. The four-week pause was initially planned to expire on Dec. 19.

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