Signs of a possible COVID peak; state reaches 11K pandemic deaths

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 data remains muddled by post-holiday reporting lags, but Tuesday’s report offers reasons to be hopeful the surge in cases and hospitalizations may be ready to ebb. Deaths, however, continue to mount.

The newest figures show confirmed, active cases topping 64,000 — down slightly from the prior day but still one of the highest counts in the pandemic. The numbers are as of 4 a.m. Friday, however, and were not updated Monday on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is trending at about 17 percent, according to MPR News calculations — down slightly from Friday’s peak but still more than three times the 5 percent officials find concerning.

The post-holidays surge is being driven almost entirely by COVID’s omicron mutation.

COVID hospitalizations remain high — 1,610 people are hospitalized — but the count of intensive care cases has ticked down in recent days, with 248 currently needing an ICU bed.

Hospital CEOs in recent weeks have pleaded with people to stay vigilant against the disease, warning hospitals are “literally full” of patients with COVID and other care needs.

Minneapolis and St. Paul leaders are temporarily requiring either a proof of vaccine or a recent negative COVID test for customers at all businesses where people are eating and drinking. On Thursday, Duluth’s mayor ordered a 30-day mask mandate for indoor public gathering spaces.

On Friday, the University of Minnesota announced a temporary proof of vaccination or negative test policy for indoor events of 200 or more attendees at all campuses, including for people who aren’t students or staff of the University.

Data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show all Minnesota counties currently with a high level of viral spread.

The state’s death toll stands at 11,000 including 29 newly reported deaths. Deaths typically follow a surge in cases and hospitalizations. In past COVID-19 waves, it’s been the last of the key metrics to improve.

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes: 77 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with almost 73 percent now completely vaccinated.

However, the struggle continues to get first shots into more Minnesotans, especially in central Minnesota.

Wide gaps remain in the vaccination rates among regions and counties.