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The daily coronavirus update: new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Minnesota continue to rise; Walz’s emergency powers extended

The state has reported double-digit deaths in five of the last seven days.

COVID-19
COVID-19
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 April 14, 2021:

Sixteen more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday, for a total of 6,978.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Wednesday, two were in their 90s, five were in their 80s, three were in their 70s, five were in their 60s and one was in their 50s. Two of the 16 people whose deaths announced Wednesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

The state has reported double-digit deaths in five of the last seven days, and Minnesota has reported 130 deaths in the first two weeks of April. The state is currently on pace to report more deaths in April (not counting a backlog released on March 9) than in March, despite the continued vaccine rollout.

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MDH also said Wednesday there have been 547,101 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 1,697 from the total announced on Tuesday and is based on 24,033 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 7.2 percent. That positivity rate has been rising quickly over the last several weeks and is well above the 5-percent threshold state officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread.

As of Monday, the most recent data available, 2,131,904 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s roughly 38.3 percent of the population and up 29,045 from the day prior. MDH reports 1,460,806 residents, roughly 26.3 percent of the population, have completed a vaccine series. That’s up 25,570 from the day prior.

The most recent data available show 164 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 517 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. Hospitalizations have also been rising. There were 159 Minnesotans reported in the ICU with COVID-19 on Tuesday and 138 last Wednesday. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Wednesday cases are comparable to late October, when a surge in COVID-19 cases led to a spike in deaths. Malcolm said the state believes the majority of new cases in Minnesota are now caused by the B117 variant, which was first identified in the U.K. That variant is more contagious and may be more deadly, though there is conflicting research on the issue. “We’ve headed back up that curve,” Malcolm said.

Still, Malcolm said hospitalizations and deaths have fallen 95 percent among long-term care residents, most of which have been vaccinated.

On Wednesday, the state’s executive council approved Gov. Tim Walz’s request to extend his peacetime emergency powers for another 30 days. The council is made up of the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor and the attorney general. All are Democrats.

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Walz’s executive authority has been criticized by some Democrats and most Republicans in the Legislature. At a meeting of the council Wednesday, Malcolm said the governor’s powers are needed to handle the surge of COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout. She said the quick creation of a mass vaccination site at the state fairgrounds in partnership with FEMA “could not have been done on that timeline” without emergency powers. 

Walz acknowledged efforts to reduce or eliminate his emergency authority at the Legislature and said the state’s forebearers could not have anticipated “a 14-month ongoing emergency.” Those critical of the governor say he is sidestepping the Legislature from making important decisions.

Even with the rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Walz said ongoing vaccinations were welcome news. “The normalcy, you can feel it in the air,” he said.

More information on cases can be found here.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that there is conflicting research on whether the B117 variant is more deadly. 

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MDH’s coronavirus website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

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