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Minnesota officials won’t call spike in COVID deaths a trend

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials on Wednesday reported 17 new deaths from the coronavirus, the highest one-day death toll in two months.

Minnesota’s daily death figures usually have been in single digits in recent weeks. The new fatalities raised the state’s death toll to 1,738, with most of them among residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. But Minnesota Department of Health officials were hesitant to attribute the one-day spike to any specific cause.

“One day does not make a trend,” said Kris Ehresmann, the department’s director of infectious diseases.

The department also reported 567 newly confirmed cases, raising the state’s total to 66,618.

The number of Minnesotans hospitalized rose by 17 patients to 321, with 152 in intensive care.

Minnesota has been in pattern of mostly moderate daily death counts but with a stubbornly persistent level of hospitalizations. The number of new cases has been trended downward in recent days Ehresmann and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it remained unclear if that’s the result of Gov. Tim Walz’s indoor mask mandate, other ongoing mitigation efforts or just the typical ebb and flow of cases amid the pandemic.

“We will continue to watch these numbers,” Ehresmann said.

Health officials said an apparent jump in the number of new tests conducted was an anomaly. Wednesday’s figure of 34,879 included a backlog of a little over 25,000 tests that were just added to the system. The vast majority were negative tests from several outside labs. It’s the third time that the department has had to add in a backlog of tests as new labs get set up for reporting.