MDH COVID-19 briefing: Twin Cities ICU capacity pressured as COVID-19 cases climb

During the state’s regular COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Minnesota health officials discussed the state’s testing strategies, as well as contact tracing. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also took time to discuss widespread community transmission in the state.

Wednesday, Minnesota reported a record-high 3,844 newly reported COVID-19 cases. The state also reported 31 new deaths.

Malcolm said Wednesday marked the fourth day Minnesota has seen more than 3,000 cases. She added the state could begin seeing 4,000 daily cases in the near future.

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Malcolm described the state’s spread as a "statewide outbreak," with hotspots in western and central Minnesota.

According to the commissioner, a large number of new cases continue to be found in working adults between 18 and 35.

The spread, Malcolm said, is beyond certain settings like bars and restaurants.

"It’s happening in our backyards," she said. "It’s starting to happen where people gather in groups and start to feel comfortable and relaxed and like the social mitigation measures are not needed."

She added, "There is so much we can do as Minnesotans to help affect what happens from this point. We can either help to slow this spread of the virus, or we can help to accelerate it."

Testing efforts

The commissioner also took the time to speak about Minnesota’s testing efforts.

"We’ve done such important work to expand access to testing for Minnesotans to try to remove barriers, to try to make more options available for people," Malcolm said.

The pilot program where rural Minnesotans are able to order at-home saliva test kits is still ongoing. Malcolm said the pilot is going well and said it could be launched statewide in the next week or so.

The commissioner also praised the opening of saliva testing sites around the state.

While visiting the state, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx was "very complimentary" of Minnesota’s testing strategy, Malcolm said.

"We can say with confidence that we are building an infrastructure to make it possible for people to get tested when and where they need to," Malcolm said.

Contact tracing

MDH Infectious Disease Expert Kris Ehresmann said as the state continues to see a large number of cases, contact tracers are continuing to work to get information to Minnesotans within 24 hours.

However, health officials are asking that once Minnesotans receive news they’ve tested positive that they contact anyone they have been in close proximity with.

Minnesotans are asked to notify people they have been around 48 hours prior to their COVID-19 symptoms showing, or people they have been around 48 hours prior to their test.