ST. PAUL — While some states ahead of Minnesota in lifting COVID-19 restrictions have seen significant upticks in news cases, Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said many of Minnesota's indicators are "neutral or slightly positive."
"We want to celebrate that but we want to recognize that we're not out of the woods yet," Ehresmann said during a media call Friday. "We've said from the start that we may see waves of illness. As Gov. (Tim) Walz pointed out, the dial on reopening might need to be turned out depending on how things play out."
As restrictions lift and people continue to gather to demonstrate, Ehresmann said the the state won't be able to confirm whether or not it's experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases because of increased activity for some time.
"With the reopening on June 1 we're still within even an incubation period for that," she said. "I think it's important for people to keep in mind that as much as we want to know the outcome of different activities it does take a little while, both to have for incubation period, but then also to have time for testing and results."
Friday marked the third day of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases after four days of decline, a pattern that's occurred in the state a couple times in the past month, said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. On Friday, the state reported 490 new cases of COVID-19.
If a second wave were to hit Minnesota, Malcolm said it's better prepared in terms of infrastructure, information, more coordinated planning and increased capacity for intensive care.
"There's no question in my mind but that we're better prepared," Malcolm said. "We also know a lot more than we did four months ago. It's really stunning how much some of our basic assumptions have changed from early days."
That said, Malcolm acknowledged people are tired of experiencing disruptive changes in lifestyle and how that fatigue could offset the work the Minnesotans have done to prepare for COVID-19.
"We don't for a minute underestimate the degree to which people are chaffing at those restrictions," Malcolm said while calling on people to not give up on the importance of personal measures people can take like hand washing, staying home, physical distancing and wearing masks.
"All that being said, I think we are definitely in a much better position to manage this as we expected this is going to be with us for some time," Malcolm said.
The number of people with COVID-19 in an intensive care unit dropped slightly Friday to 191 people. Another 212 are hospitalized outside of an ICU setting. Malcolm noted that the current number of total hospitalizations is almost 200 fewer people than the high point that the state observed a couple weeks ago.
"The hospitalization picture has stabilized and improved pretty significantly in recent weeks which is great to see," Malcolm said.
The four community testing sites that opened in Minneapolis and St. Paul earlier this week have tested 3,223 people on Tuesday and Wednesday. The sites offer free testing to those living in communities involved in the large gatherings, protests and community clean-up efforts in the Twin Cities the past few weeks. Of the 1,327 tests that have been completed Malcolm said there's been a 1.4% positivity rate.
Those sites will remain open Tuesdays and Wednesdays for at least the next two weeks. Addresses for the community testings sites can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health's website.
The state reported that on Thursday, another 13,391 diagnostic tests were completed, an increase from the day before.
The new cases reported Friday were distributed across 38 counties. With 78 news cases Rice County, home to Faribault, saw the second highest number of new reports after Hennepin County. Another 34 new cases were reported in Mower County, which includes Austin.
Also Friday, the health department reported that another 25 people have died with COVID-19 and 22 of them were residents of long-term care facilities. One death each was reported in Anoka and Sibley counties, with five deaths recorded in Clay County, eight in Hennepin County and 10 in Ramsey County.
Of the 29,795 Minnesotans who have tested positive over the past few months, 25,028 of them no longer need to be isolated.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.