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The daily coronavirus update: 433 new cases; death toll continues to decline

Three more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, for a total of 1,474.

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

For the foreseeable future, MinnPost will be providing daily updates on coronavirus in Minnesota, published following the press phone call with members of the Walz administration each afternoon.

Here are the latest updates from July 6, 2020:

38,569 confirmed cases; 1,474 deaths 

Three more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, for a total of 1,474.

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Of the people whose deaths were announced Monday, one was in their 90s, one was in their 60s and one was in their 40s. One person whose death was announced Monday was a resident of a long-term care facility. Of the 1,474 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,156 have been among residents of long-term care.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests.

MDH also said Monday there have been 38,569 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 433 from Sunday’s count and is based on 5,677 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 4,219 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 258 are currently in the hospital, 125 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 38,569 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 33,907 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

MDH adds news epidemic metrics

MDH is again tweaking the way it evaluates the state’s pandemic response, in part by increasing a benchmark goal of conducting 50 tests each week for every 10,000 Minnesota residents to 100 tests each week for every 10,000 residents. 

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“The reason we made this change is because as testing capacity has continued to expand we thought that this was more appropriate and reflective of where we actually are and we wanted to keep the bar high on expected testing across the state,” said Jan Malcolm, the MDH commissioner.

On this metric, Minnesota is succeeding. The state has been above the 100 test threshold for at least three weeks, Malcolm said. Minnesota currently ranks 16th among states in testing per 100,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The state has also implemented a new measure for tracking growth in the number of cases in the state. Instead of counting the time in which the number of known COVID-19 cases double, known as the case doubling rate, the state now says it will track the average weekly rate of new cases per 100,000 people. 

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Malcolm said while the case doubling rate was instructive early on, when it doubled faster as the fewer cases rose quickly, the new measure will better help the state track “where we actually are in the epidemic” and will help catch outbreaks or increases in cases, Malcolm said.

Minnesota currently has a rolling seven-day average of 7.7 new cases per 100,000 residents, which equates to about 435 new cases per day. The state’s goal, which is five new cases per 100,000 people, equates to 283 cases per day. Malcolm said the measure is tied to population, which can help Minnesota compare different regions and compare itself to other states. But she said MDH does not yet have comparisons to share.

Both metrics are part of the state’s “dial-back” dashboard which is aimed at monitoring the epidemic to see if Minnesota should clamp down on public activities again.

What’s causing the drop in deaths?

While the number of new COVID-19 cases may not meet state standards, the daily death toll has generally decreased since mid-June. The state has reported more than 10 deaths in one day twice since June 20. The state was steadily reporting more than 10 or 20 deaths per day for the two months prior.

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Health officials said a number of factors are contributing to the dropping number of deaths. Sustained efforts to reduce the spread of infection in long-term care facilities is one reason there are fewer deaths, Malcolm said. Since elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are more at risk to die of COVID-19, a drop in cases at assisted living facilities and nursing homes can greatly reduce deaths. 

Malcolm said 80 percent of nursing homes that have ever had a case have not had any new cases in the last week. About 38 percent have had no new cases in a month. “We definitely do have the metrics to indicate more facilities are better able to control outbreaks when they happen,” Malcolm said.

Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist, said that treatment for COVID-19 has improved as medications are tested and used, and doctors learn more about preventing complications from the disease like blood clotting.

Another reason deaths have declined may be that the share of new cases among younger people has steadily increased. The median age of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota is now 38.4 years old, compared to 41.5 years old at the beginning of June. Malcolm said that was a “notable drop” over one month.

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Younger people are less likely to have a severe case of coronavirus. Still, Lynfield said she wanted to caution young people that they can spread COVID-19 to people “who may not do as well as they.” 

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

Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920