‘Very saddened but not surprised’: Minnesota health officials on record number of positive cases, rise in hospitalizations

Minnesota Department of Health officials discussed Friday’s highest single-day report of positive COVID-19 cases, a jump in hospitalizations and the current state of health care workers in the state.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann were on the call Friday.

Record-setting day

MDH released the latest COVID-19 numbers for the state earlier in the day, with a record-breaking number of coronavirus cases (2,297) reported. Malcolm added that it comes on the highest volume of testing in a single day as well. Seven of the 13 deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

"That’s family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, loved ones that have been affected by the disease," Malcolm said. "I’m very saddened but not surprised by [Friday’s] numbers."

The previous record-high of cases reported was last Friday, with a 50% jump in the latest report from a week ago.

Record-high 2,297 new COVID-19 cases reported in Minnesota

Additionally, MDH officials said they are seeing a rise in hospitalizations, too. The latest report lists 461 currently hospitalized and 137 patients in intensive care units. More serious cases are developing as it relates to more people who are getting sick. Ehresmann and Malcolm said it’s something the department expects in that regard.

The rise in cases is not due to one specific event or large gathering, but instead, it is a result of steady spread in communities across the state. It’s a combination of community spread and asymptomatic spread. Malcolm added that many of the things people consider safe to do in recent months are much riskier at this point.

"We know we are going to make it through this," Malcolm said, adding that there will be a time we don’t have to worry about COVID-19 if everyone does their due diligence in following health guidelines and doing their part to reduce spread of the virus.

Malcolm said that testing volume is up 60% since last month. She noted that increased testing is important, however, unless people recognize they may be positive, it doesn’t help the overall picture.

The rolling seven-day positivity rate is up from last week and has been at a caution level that indicates widespread disease growth for 18 days.

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Health care transmission

Ehresmann discussed the latest information on health care workers and COVID-19, Friday. She said MDH tracks health care workers who would be exposed to high-risk exposure without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). That has increased monthly since June.

More exposures are being seen coming from households, and an increase of community spread on health care workers continues to trend upward.

"The challenge in health care is not only those who must quarantine, but those who are around those that are exposed and must isolate," Ehresmann said, adding the unfortunate end result is a lack of staffing.

Joining Ehresmann and Malcolm on the call Friday, Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis said a close eye is on hospital bed availability. She said two trends are being seen — a concerningly high level of hospitalizations that are occurring because of the virus and delays seen in medical care that could have been prevented.

DeCubellis is asking people to not delay necessary medical care so critical hospital beds are utilized when they are needed most. The challenge, as of Friday, isn’t related to beds but more so on keeping heath care systems staffed.

"Help us help you, and follow guidelines," she said.

Other notes of importance from Friday’s call:

  • Positive case numbers are spread out across the state. One thing that may contribute to the higher numbers is more testing available, but there isn’t a single reason as to why case numbers are going up.
  • Almost every hospital in Minnesota has had to pull hospital beds offline due to staffing shortages. Any staff involved in direct care has been heavily impacted, according to DeCubellis.
  • COVID fatigue is something that poses a significant issue across the state in private social gatherings, Malcolm said. Minnesotans have shown better results in following health guidelines in public settings but not so much in private settings. This is an issue happening nationwide. Ehresmann addressed a specific northwestern Minnesota county that has seen this become an issue.
  • Surrounding states continue to trend upward and have more alarming data than Minnesota. However, Malcolm said that could soon change as data is getting more closely aligned with bordering states.

To listen to the call on Friday, click play on the video below.