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Coronavirus in Minnesota: Masks optional at MSP, Metro Transit, following federal ruling

Data from the Metropolitan Council show viral RNA in the Twin Cities, as measured in wastewater, is still low, but rising along with official case counts.

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

In Minnesota, COVID-19 cases continue to go up, but, so far, there hasn’t been an accompanying rise in hospitalizations and deaths — yet.

That could change, but it tracks with what’s happening in other places, where we see cases rise without a significant hospitalization and death increase.

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In an interview with MPR on Monday, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm characterized Minnesota’s recent rise in cases as fairly moderate.

“We’re not seeing the kind of rapid, almost vertical increase in cases that we saw in December. We’re watching it very closely but so far, we’re feeling a little more comfortable with what’s going on,” she said.

She told MPR it’s clear that we’ll be living with COVID-19 as a recurring issue into the future, but that it’s likely people will be making more personal decisions about their safety amid the virus. For now, vaccines are holding up well against BA.2, the more-transmissible omicron subvariant, but COVID-19 is spreading globally and with that, there’s plenty of opportunities for worse mutations.

Data from the Metropolitan Council show viral RNA in the Twin Cities, as measured in wastewater, is still low, but rising along with official case counts. The BA.2 “stealth” omicron variant is dominant, making up more than 90 percent of the viral matter found in wastewater.

In travel news, a federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Controls’ requirement that masks be worn on public transportation and planes. (Flying soon? The New York Times re-upped its “How Safe Are You From COVID When You Fly?” piece.)

Some cities are keeping mask mandates on public transit. Neither the Metro Transit nor the MSP International Airport are requiring masks in the wake of the ruling. Also, Uber and Lyft both announced they are dropping mask requirements for drivers and passengers.

Cases

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) show the state added 5,071 new COVID-19 cases between April 13 and April 19, averaging 724 new cases per day — up from last week, which saw an average of 513 cases per day.

You may recall we are no longer reporting the seven-day case positivity average in this newsletter. That’s because a federal reporting change means some labs are no longer reporting negative tests to MDH.

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Deaths and hospitalizations

Minnesota has reported 24 COVID-19 deaths since last Wednesday. Last week, the state reported 30 deaths. (Deaths did not necessarily occur in the week in which they were reported because deaths are not always reported and confirmed immediately.) 

COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations are down slightly compared to last week, while non-ICU hospitalizations are up. As of Tuesday, 21 people are in intensive care with COVID-19, while 205 are hospitalized and not in intensive care. Last Tuesday, 30 individuals were in intensive care and 160 were hospitalized and not in intensive care. More information on Minnesota’s current hospitalizations here.

Vaccines

The most recent data show 66.4 percent of Minnesotans had completed a COVID-19 primary vaccine series, while 45.9 percent were up-to-date on their shots (meaning they have completed the primary series and received a booster if recommended). A week ago, 66.3 percent of Minnesotans had completed the vaccine series, and 45.9 percent were up-to-date. More data on the state’s vaccination efforts can be found here.

This week on MinnPost

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