Minnesota COVID-19 positivity rate hits vaccine-era high

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Minnesota’s COVID-19 test positivity rate soared to 8.3% as of Tuesday, the highest mark since vaccines first rolled out late last year.

The seven-day rolling average for the state’s positivity rate continues to climb toward the high-risk category. The state draws that line at 10%.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota reached 960 as of Monday and included 254 people needing intensive care. It was the highest level of hospitalizations the state has recorded since giving its first shots in mid-December. While the total was below the record 1,864 hospitalizations set last Nov. 29, it’s the highest it’s been in 2021. The rate of deaths being reported is roughly double what it was a month ago.

As COVID-19 burns through Minnesota’s unvaccinated population, new cases have combined with trauma and other illnesses to fill up 96% of Minnesota’s available intensive care beds and 93% of non-ICU beds. Open beds remain in low supply across much of the state, primarily due to staffing shortages.

The escalating COVID-19 wave is fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant and comes as a bitter blow to public health leaders who had pinned their hopes on vaccines stopping the pandemic. While vaccines don’t prevent all infections, studies show they remain highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday reported 10 new COVID-19 deaths and 7,942 more coronavirus infections, reflecting pandemic activity identified over the weekend. Despite the irregular reporting schedule, the data indicates the latest surge, which began in August, is showing no sign of ebbing. The additions raise Minnesota’s pandemic totals to 746,768 infections and 8,330 deaths. Daily new cases per 100,000 residents has reached 52.7 — the highest since mid-December.

School-age children continue to be the group suffering the most new infections in Minnesota with 10- to 14-year-olds leading the pack. Children age 11 and under aren’t eligible for vaccinations yet. But cases are now also on the rise among middle-age residents.

Minnesota’s rate of new infections for the past seven days is seventh-worst among U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with other Midwest and Northwest states seeing surges as well. But infections in hard-hit states such as Florida and Louisiana have dropped to among the lowest in the country.