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Coronavirus in Minnesota: Director Ehresmann to retire, backlog in confirming positive cases

The omicron variant has caused such a large spike in new cases that Minnesota Department of Health staff has fallen behind confirming the deluge of positive tests submitted. 

COVID-19
COVID-19
Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

This week in COVID-19 news

On Tuesdays, MinnPost provides weekly updates that cover COVID-19 developments in Minnesota from the previous Wednesday to present.

Researchers are unsure if the omicron variant, which appears to be less severe than previous strains, might still lead to cases of long covid

Also, the omicron-fueled spike in positive cases has appeared to reach its peak – reaching as high as 800,000 new cases a day in the U.S. before, over the past few days, beginning to fall back down. 

Here in Minnesota, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann announced her retirement. The state official, with more than 30 years of public health experience in Minnesota, helped lead the state, alongside MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Gov. Tim Walz, through the pandemic thus far. Ehresmann will step down Feb. 2. 

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Cases

The omicron variant has caused such a large spike in new cases that Minnesota Department of Health staff has fallen behind confirming the deluge of positive tests submitted. 

As MDH staff catch up, they are also still releasing updates. But, because there are positive tests still awaiting confirmation, the daily case number total is likely an undercount. 

Between Jan. 3 and Jan. 24, MDH estimates that there are 222,779 positive reports awaiting review. That’s more than 10,000 cases a day. 

Data from the MDH show the state added 116,047 new COVID-19 cases in the seven days between Jan. 19 and Jan. 25, for an average of 16,578 new cases per day. That’s up from 11,099 new case daily average the week prior. At the height of the pandemic in late November of 2020, Minnesota averaged more than 7,000 new cases per day.

The most recent seven-day case positivity average — or the average share of positive cases out of total COVID-19 tests — is 23.2 percent, up from 22.2 percent the week prior. You can find the seven-day case positivity average here.

There have been more breakthrough COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant, which early research suggests is more transmissible and avoids vaccine protections against infection better than previous strains of the disease. Still, there are relatively few people who have been hospitalized or who have died of COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.

As of Dec. 19, the most recent data available, 234,110 of more than 3,381,592 million fully vaccinated Minnesotans have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 1,304 have died. The data are from before the current omicron surge, however. The data are from before the current omicron surge, however. More data can be found here.

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Deaths and hospitalizations

Minnesota added 230 new COVID-19 deaths in the past week, up from 162 the week prior (Deaths did not necessarily occur in the week in which they were reported because deaths are not always reported and confirmed immediately).

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to drop in Minnesota. As of Tuesday, 228 people are in intensive care with COVID-19, while 1,279 are hospitalized and not in intensive care. Last Tuesday, 248 were in intensive care and 1,362 were hospitalized and not in intensive care. More information on Minnesota’s current hospitalizations here.

Vaccines

The most recent data show 68.8 percent of Minnesotans, (3.82 million people), had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 64.4 percent of Minnesotans (3.58 million people) had completed the vaccine series. A week ago, 68.3 percent of Minnesotans, (3.8 million people), had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 64.0 percent of Minnesotans (3.6 million people) had completed the vaccine series. More data on the state’s vaccination efforts can be found here.

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