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Coronavirus in Minnesota: ‘stealth’ omicron takes over

Wastewater data from the Metropolitan Council suggest BA.2 is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the Twin Cities.

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 cases are up slightly this week, while hospitalization levels are unchanged since last week.

As we’ve reported for the last (checks calendar) three weeks now, it’s clear that the BA.2 “stealth” omicron subvariant is here in Minnesota. In fact, wastewater data from the Metropolitan Council suggest BA.2 is now the dominant strain of COVID-19, at least in the Twin Cities.

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It’s still not clear how big of a surge the subvariant — believed to be more transmissible but not necessarily more severe than “classic” omicron — will cause.

Is it good news that it hasn’t caused another surge yet? Undoubtedly. Does that mean it won’t? Not necessarily, though experts do not think a BA.2 wave would be near as big as the omicron wave in December and January, since more people are more vaccinated now and many people have some natural immunity.

If other places that BA.2 became dominant earlier — like New York — are any indication, cases may rise more. We just still don’t know how much. Also worth noting/potentially good news: NBC New York reported Tuesday that while cases are up, breakthrough hospitalizations are not. Hospitalizations lag cases, of course, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the relationship between case increases and hospitalizations with this new subvariant.

In national news: The Centers for Disease Control will undergo an evaluation —“a first step in modernizing its systems and processes and transforming it for the future,” the New York Times reported. The evaluation follows criticism of the agency’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And in testing news: As of Monday, Medicare recipients can get free COVID-19 at-home tests at drug stores.

Cases

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health show the state added 2,939 new COVID-19 cases between March 30 and April 5, averaging 420 new cases per day — slightly higher than last week, which saw an average of 378 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 2.9 percent. A week ago, it was 2.8 percent. A note about case positivity: starting this week, new federal reporting rules mean that some labs will stop reporting negative test results to MDH. That may cause the case positivity rate to appear to increase, since the rate is calculated by dividing total positive tests by total reported tests, but fewer total tests will be reported. You can find the seven-day case positivity average here.

Deaths and hospitalizations

Minnesota has reported 29 COVID-19 deaths since last Wednesday. Last week, the state reported 50 deaths. (Deaths did not necessarily occur in the week in which they were reported because deaths are not always reported and confirmed immediately.)

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COVID-19 hospitalizations have been stable over the last week. As of Tuesday, 29 people are in intensive care with COVID-19, while 171 are hospitalized and not in intensive care. Last Tuesday, 27 were in intensive care and 171 were hospitalized and not in intensive care. More information on Minnesota’s current hospitalizations here.

Vaccines

The most recent data show 66.3 percent of Minnesotans had completed a COVID-19 primary vaccine series, while 45.8 percent were up-to-date on their shots (meaning they have completed the primary series and received a booster if recommended). A week ago, 66.2 percent of Minnesotans had completed the vaccine series, and 45.8 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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