New, active cases edging up locally, but no big surge seen yet statewide

Published 6:15 pm Monday, August 2, 2021

By Albert Lea Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News

COVID-19 cases in Freeborn County are starting to creep up again, with five to 10 new cases reported most days in the last week.

According to the Freeborn County Public Health Department, eight new cases were reported Monday, along with one new hospitalization. The new cases included one child between 0 and 4, two people 5 to 9, two people 10 to 14, two people in their 30s and one person in their 40s.

There are currently 36 active cases in the county.

Monday’s Health Department data showed Minnesota averaging a little more than 500 new cases per day over the last seven reporting days, up significantly from about 91 daily at the start of July. Known active cases in that stretch have gone from 780 to back above 4,000.

While concerning, there’s no data yet to signal explosive growth similar to mid-April or late fall.

The rate of tests coming back positive for COVD-19 in the past reporting week is inching up but still below the 5 percent officials find concerning.

With the rise of the highly contagious delta variant, federal officials recommend even vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in areas where community transmission is substantial or high. The University of Minnesota said it will require all students, faculty, staff and visitors to return to indoor masking.

While about half of Minnesota counties now have what’s considered substantial community spread, officials reiterated they have no plans or power to return to any statewide restrictions or masking requirements, but they remain concerned about the current path of the virus.

“Heading up in case counts is a direction that no one wanted to go,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday, noting that the delta variant is responsible now for about 85 percent of new cases in the state.

“This is a very opportunistic virus,” she added, imploring eligible Minnesotans to get their shots.

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is in a much better position than in November or April. Nearly 70 percent of state residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccination shot. That offers some hope this will remain a relatively mild wave.

Hospital and intensive care needs have risen, although they still aren’t close to the numbers seen in the fall and spring — 229 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 68 needing intensive care.

Deaths also remain fairly moderate even as cases and hospitalizations have risen. Malcolm said that’s due directly to vaccinations. “We are not seeing the same proportionate rise in the numbers of deaths as we’ve seen in prior waves,” she said.

On the downside, data shows this current wave is hitting Black Minnesotans especially hard.

About 68.8 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest data; 65.6 percent are completely vaccinated. Add in some 104,000 12-to-15-year-olds and Minnesota is very close to having 3 million people completely vaccinated.

Among those vaccinated, about 4,500 people, well below 1 percent, have gone on to get COVID-19 with 455 ending up hospitalized and 56 dying, Malcolm said, calling the data “amazing evidence” of the vaccines’ protection.

Officials hope by the end of August, at least 70 percent of the state’s 16-and-older population will be have at least one vaccine dose, although the rate of vaccination continues to sputter along.

Wide gaps remain in the vaccination rate among Minnesota regions.