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Daily COVID-19 update: Hospitalizations, new cases recede; 22 deaths statewide

Minnesota officials on Monday reported another 22 COVID-19 deaths, continuing an already dreadful December. But other key metrics are showing definite signs of hope.

New daily caseloads and hospital admissions continue to retreat from their late November, early December peaks.

The Health Department posted 1,998 newly confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases — the lowest count since late October, part of more than a week of relatively moderate new caseloads. Officials expected a surge originating from Thanksgiving gatherings, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The number of active, confirmed cases in Minnesota is down to around 21,000, the lowest since Nov. 4.

The agency said 1,040 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Sunday, with 237 needing intensive care. While that’s still fairly high, the seven-day trend for new hospital admissions has dropped to levels not seen since early November.

The rate of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — a metric that officials use to judge the level of virus spread in the state — continues to pull back. The seven-day positive rate trend is at about 6.7 percent, down more than half from its recent peak. A rate of 5 percent or more is considered concerning.

State health officials have warned that the improving picture could change dramatically if people don’t stay vigilant as year-end holidays approach. They continue to implore people to wear masks in outdoor gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

The cases reported Monday put Minnesota at 399,311 in the pandemic. Of those, about 93 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

The deaths reported Monday raised Minnesota’s toll to 4,872. Among those who’ve died, about 65 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The toll remains awful. Some 2,400 COVID-19 deaths have been reported during November and December. That’s half of all the deaths in the pandemic that started back in March.

Caseloads spread across age groups

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 76,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 40,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

The number of high school-age children confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 31,000 total cases among children ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.

Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to grandparents and other vulnerable populations.

It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.

New cases ebb in rural Minnesota

Central and western Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases over the past two months, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.

After a spike in confirmed cases through much of November and early December, all regions of the state have seen new case numbers fall.

Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.

Caseloads still heaviest among people of color

In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.

Even as new case counts ease from their peak a few weeks ago, the data shows people of color continue to be hit hardest.

Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.

Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.

Southern Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported nine new COVID-19 cases Monday, including two people between 0 and 4, one person between 15 and 19; two people in their 50s; two people in their 60s; and two people in their 70s.

The new cases increase the county’s cumulative cases to 1,869. Of that number, 89 are considered active cases. No new deaths or hospitalizations were reported on Monday.

The following are updates from other area counties:

• Faribault County: 19 new cases; 854 total cases

• Mower County: eight new cases; 3,228 total cases

• Steele County: four new cases; 2,424 total cases

• Waseca County: four new cases; 1,649 total cases