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Coronavirus in Minnesota: New CDC mask guidelines mean less masking recommended in Minnesota

The new standards consider both rates of spread of COVID-19 and hospitalizations.

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

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

This week in COVID-19 news

COVID-19 indicators are looking even better this week, with case counts dropping and the most recent data showing less COVID-19 in wastewater in the Twin Cities and around the state.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged the improved outlook at the unveiling of the state’s budget forecast.

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“This is the first time we’ve been in this room that felt a little like pre-COVID for many of us. The numbers today on the COVID front are as good as they’ve been since last August, in some cases better than it’s been the whole time,” he said. “There’s every reason to believe that from hospitalizations to vaccination rates to a return to most basic economic activities, we’re exactly on the right path.”

There was lots of mask news this week as governments and businesses relaxed their mask-wearing requirements. But the big one was: On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control announced a relaxation of masking guidance for some communities in the U.S., based on hospitalizations, hospital capacity and caseloads.

People in places designated “medium” or “low” risk by the CDC do not need to wear a mask in indoor public places.

People who are immunocompromised are advised to follow guidelines from the CDC that vary based on risk level to protect themselves. Anyone, anywhere who has COVID-19 symptoms, has tested positive for the virus or been exposed to a positive case should wear a mask.

Most of the Twin Cities area is currently considered low or medium risk. Some parts of Greater Minnesota remain high-risk, per the CDC’s map.

In older (but still in the past week) news, Minneapolis and St. Paul have both removed their mask mandates for indoor spaces, except government buildings. Ramsey County also removed its mask mandate for county buildings, but could again be required if the county becomes high-risk, the Star Tribune reported.

Masking is no longer required for all state employees who work in office settings or with the public per MPR’s Brian Bakst, who reports agency-specific policies may differ. The White House has ended its mask mandate for vaccinated staff Tuesday, per NBC News. New York state will end its mask mandate for school children this week.

Cases

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health show the state added 8,998 new COVID-19 cases between Feb. 23 and March 1. Because of reporting delays over the President’s Day holiday, that total includes 10 days’ worth of data, averaging 900 new cases per day. The previous week’s average was 1,842 cases per day.

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The most recent seven-day case positivity average — or the average share of positive cases out of total COVID-19 tests — is 5.6 percent, down from 9.5 percent the week prior. You can find the seven-day case positivity average here.

Deaths and hospitalizations

Minnesota has reported 138 COVID-19 deaths since last Wednesday (again, including 10 days’ data). (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, 75 people are in intensive care with COVID-19, while 437 are hospitalized and not in intensive care. Last Tuesday, 104 were in intensive care and 529 were hospitalized and not in intensive care. More information on Minnesota’s current hospitalizations here.

Vaccines

The most recent data show 65.8 percent of Minnesotans, (3.7 million people), had completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. A week ago, 65.5 percent of Minnesotans had completed the vaccine series. More data on the state’s vaccination efforts can be found here.

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This week on MinnPost

What we’re reading

MinnPost reporter Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.