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MDH COVID-19 briefing: 7-day positivity rate continuing to climb, Sturgis motorcycle event concerns

This Aug. 2, 2019 photo shows Main Street was filled with motorcycles in Sturgis, S.D. Photo: Adam Fondren/Rapid City Journal via AP. This Aug. 2, 2019 photo shows Main Street was filled with motorcycles in Sturgis, S.D.

Tommy Wiita
Updated: August 05, 2020 03:38 PM
Created: August 05, 2020 01:59 PM

Wednesday, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm discussed recent COVID-19 numbers in the state, how the testing positivity rate continues to rise over the past week and juggling the upcoming flu season with the current pandemic, amidst other topics.

Malcolm said in the recent MDH report, four of the nine deaths happened in long-term care facilities. The median age of those who test positive sits currently at 36 years old.

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Additionally in the recent report, a net decrease of 23 people in the hospital and seven less in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was noted.

Over the past week, Malcolm mentioned that the growth in testing is up 9.9%, despite the United States as a whole seeing a dip in testing over the past two weeks. According to the Associated Press, 22 states saw their overall testing numbers drop. Minnesota's testing rate was up 12.7% last week.

Malcolm said during the call Tuesday that the seven-day rolling average positivity rate is up to 5.2% (4.9% a week ago). Malcolm and MDH Infectious Diseases Director Kris Ehresmann have stated that increases in the rolling average positivity rate for five consecutive days would be a concern, with 5% being the lower-level of concern to 15% being the highest level of concern.

Virus testing in the US is dropping, even as deaths mount

In regards to handling the pandemic and the flu season this fall, Malcolm stressed the importance of vaccinations in order to prevent diseases from spreading. Maintaining high levels of immunization is critical to free up other important health care space, she said. The reason for the focus on the topic is due to a drop seen in immunization coverage among children during the pandemic.

Malcolm said they have seen a decrease of 30% in child vaccinations this year in comparison to last year for children ages 2 and under. She said a lot of that has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Malcolm also advises adults to check their vaccination status as well.

The MDH commissioner called the decision to go ahead with the event in Sturgis, South Dakota "disappointing," as it's a "ripe environment for further spread and for people to bring the virus back to home communities." Malcolm encourages people in higher-risk groups to avoid prolonged contact in close quarters, take precautions — not just for yourself, but the potential is there to spread to those who are at a higher risk of contracting it.

"Would be really prudent and thoughtful for people to quarantine if they go and come back," she said. "Be vigilant and watch for symptoms, consider getting tested when coming back and stay away from other people for a period of time."

Other notes:

  • Since July 10, MDH has received 463 complaints about potential violations of the mask order at restaurants and bars. Other areas and events MDH has seen that has contributed to outbreaks include family events, concerts, gatherings, sporting events and socializing after sporting events.
  • Malcolm noted that a drop in overall testing relates to supply chain issues, as some providers have to cut back on testing. The state has reached its goal of 20,000 tests a day, but MDH is working to improve that still.
  • Malcolm called the early testing results of convalescent plasma as a potential solution "encouraging," adding it's a great hope that it can be used as Mayo Clinic continues to perform their research on it.


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