ROCHESTER, Minn. -- State health officials on Friday, July 24, described a recent virtual visit from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rapid assistance field team in charge of preemptively investigating COVID-19 hotspots.

Though the team was "extremely complimentary about the depth of our data and analysis of that data," Jan Malcolm said, the state commissioner of health conceded the federal health officials "have been noting the case growth" in the metro.

Malcolm added that "the dialback measures have gone in the wrong direction the last couple of weeks."

"These represent new increases in social interaction," Malcolm said. "they are less about workplaces and more about folks moving around and interacting socially."

Minnesota reported another 773 cases of COVID-19 on Friday. With 49,488 cases total, the new cases push the state toward 50,000 laboratory-confirmed cases by early next week.

"As we're seeing more cases in our younger, working-age residents of Minnesota, I just want to remind all of us that we need to consider all the roles that we play," said director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann.

"If you're someone who really wants to get together with friends, visit a bar, go to a concert, do something that maybe would put you in a position where you would not be able to social distance, before you make a choice like that, consider all the roles that you play.

"You're more than your role of friend and someone who wants to do something fun during free time. Do you work in a child care setting? Are you a health care worker? Do you have elderly grandparents? Transmissions socially carry forward into workplaces. That can be challenging if the workplace is a child care center, a health care facility, any workplace that can involve individuals who are vulnerable."

The state on Friday reported five deaths from COVID-19. The new deaths were recorded among residents of St. Louis, Scott, Murray, Hennepin and Dakota counties. Just two of the five were among residents of long-term care. The state death toll from COVID-19 is now 1,566 deaths.

Patients hospitalized in the ICU for the illness rose by one to 109, while patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in non-ICU settings dropped by five to 170.

The state is poised to surpass another milestone, having conducted 1 million tests for COVID-19, a threshold it seems poised to cross at the start of August. Having reported an additional 16,788 tests on Friday the state has now conducted 922,876 tests, although some tests were given multiple times to the same patient.

"The supply chain has re-emerged as a concern," when it comes to test turnaround, Malcolm said. "We have reports from health systems that their supplies have been delayed and reduced. Reagents, vital transport media and physical equipment used in machines all are under supply chain pressures."

Malcolm said slower test turnaround time is affecting "folks who have been confirmed and exposed -- particularly when you get into the week-long delays that some of the national labs have reported. It really starts to interfere with the impact you can have with contact tracing work."

"To build on that," Ehresmann said, "I know it's a source of frustration, but for those waiting for results, it's important you stay out of circulation. You need to isolate yourself, limit contact, and be thinking about who you may have been in contact with two days before your symptoms."

Health officials did not say if they asked HHS during their visit why the federal government has been diverting test supplies meant for Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday told Fargo-Moorhead radio station KFGO-AM that the state's testing capacity had been limited as supplies for the tests were diverted to states such as Florida and California, where reported cases recently flared.

"One of the things that is frustrating is that I'm losing some of my testing capacity and the federal government is moving it to states like Florida and California and Arizona," Walz said. "It's a challenge."

Walz again expressed frustration about the lack of a federal strategy to combat COVID-19, saying governors and state health departments were expected to craft plans on their own.

Death Rate from COVID-19 in MN

  • 0-50 <1%
  • 50-59 1.2%
  • 60-69 5.1%
  • 70-79 14.4%
  • 80-89 30.1%
  • 90-99 44%
  • 100 + 59.6
  • Statewide 3.2%

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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.