ROCHESTER, Minn. -- State health officials reported an additional 434 cases COVID-19 on Monday, July, 6, bringing the laboratory-confirmed case total in Minnesota to 38,569. Health officials believe the actual total accumulative case number is likely 10 times that amount.
The new cases were spread widely across the state, with no clearly identifiable hot spots.
"Some of the counties we had been watching with concern in greater Minnesota seem to be slowing down a bit compared to last week," state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm said in an afternoon news call. "That's good news."
Saying "we wanted to keep the bar high," Malcolm announced that the state had raised its minimum expected threshold for average daily COVID-19 tests on a population basis, from 50 per 10,000 to 100 per 10,000. Malcolm said the move was in recognition of the state's increased testing capacity. The state has surpassed its new minimum expected threshold for the past three weeks.
The state has also added a new so-called "dial back indicator" of control over the virus. It has done away with the case-doubling time and replaced it with an indicator that measures new cases per capita, a metric used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The desired threshold sought to stay below is five new cases per 100,000 residents, statewide and regionally, over a seven-day average. Minnesota currently misses that goal, with an average 435 new daily cases statewide, or 7.7 new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
The state is seeking to get below 283 new cases a day.
By comparison, New York and New Jersey have implemented quarantine advisories for people entering those states from regions with more than 10 new cases per 100,000, on a weekly average.
Deaths from the virus continued to drop in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health reported just three deaths from COVID-19 Monday, bringing the new total 1,474. You have to go back nearly three months -- to the zero deaths reported on Monday, April 13 -- to find so few deaths in one day from the illness.
The three deaths were in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties. The resident of Dakota County who died was a person in their 40s. Just one of the three deaths was a resident of long-term care.
With daily case numbers climbing and deaths plummeting, the virus is proving to be more communicable, younger and less deadly than previously experienced. The transformation likely reflects a loosening of restrictions on movement and better containment of vulnerable people.
"The median age of Minnesota cases is continuing to steadily decline," said Malcolm, "and is now at 38.4 years old compared to 41.5 years at the beginning of June which is really quite a notable drop in one month's time."
The Fourth of July weekend suppressed testing as families took time off work and enjoyed the long holiday. The state's health providers performed just 5,687 tests for COVID-19 Sunday. Ordinarily, the state would perform two or three times that amount.
The public is currently encouraged to seek testing if they feel that they may have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms. Some insurers are resisting the request to pay for testing on asymptomatic people, a conflict that is receiving scrutiny from health officials.
In another marker of the decreasing lethality of the illness, the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in an ICU setting continued its ongoing slow decline, dropping by seven beds to 125 patients Monday, the lowest it has been since May 1.
"As we see the cases skewing younger, we're seeing a higher proportion of hospitalizations in the non-ICU level," Malcolm said. "Also, the absolute number of cases is declining, which we think is influenced by the progress of our control of outbreaks in congregate care settings."
Looking forward to the week ahead, the state awaits a possible decision on whether Gov. Tim Walz will mandate mask-wearing in public places statewide. Last week, the governor of Texas required wearing of masks statewide, after an outbreak pushed the hospital system in Houston to capacity.
"We're watching closely to see what transpired over the weekend and how well the current executive order is being adhered to," Malcolm said of the deliberations regarding a mask order. "We're back into those conversations as we speak today, and I'm sure there will be more data gathering, comparisons and inputs from stakeholders over the coming days."
Currently, both Minneapolis and St. Paul mandate masks in all public places that are indoors, and all those that are outdoors where people can not maintain a 6-foot distance. Rochester has mandated masks in public buildings but not citywide.
The Minnesota Medical Association and the Minnesota Department of Health has endorsed mandatory mask-wearing statewide. Mayo Clinic has not taken a formal position in support of mandatory mask-wearing within Rochester or statewide, although it does require masks on its campus.
The public is divided on mandatory mask-wearing, and businesses are variable in their requirement that customers wear masks. Proponents of a mask mandate argue that only an emergency order will create consistency in what can be expected by those who patronize businesses and other public places, and normalize the use of masks broadly across the state.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.
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.