Weekly COVID-19 positivity rate highest it’s been in Minnesota since last year

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Kris Ehresmann has been dissecting the state’s COVID-19 numbers since the pandemic began and says cases are not going in the right direction.

"The numbers that we are seeing are definitely concerning," Ehresmann said.

Ehresmann is the director of infectious disease with the Minnesota Department of Health.

The weekly positivity rate has jumped up to 8.4%, the highest it’s been since last year at this time before vaccines even rolled out; 10% is considered a high-risk category where widespread COVID-19 transmission is happening.

"The fact that we have five regions out of eight (in Minnesota) that are above the 10% high-risk threshold, that is definitely concerning," Ehresmann said.

Hospitals around Minnesota are reinstating COVID-19 visiting protocols like last year as beds and intensive care units fill up.

At Essentia Health in Duluth, 25% of the ICU beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.

"Right now we are seeing younger unvaccinated people with COVID-19 on life support machines," said Dr. Christina Bastin de Jong, a critical care physician with Essentia Health.

At neighboring St. Luke’s Hospital, Dr. Jonathon Shultz, an emergency medicine physician, calls it an epidemic of the unvaccinated.

"This crisis that we are in right now, and it truly is a crisis, is really particularly unfortunate given that it’s an avoidable crisis," Shultz said.

Ehresmann says many of the new infections are showing up in school-age children and many are occurring in Greater Minnesota.

"It’s worse in Greater Minnesota. This is not a situation that is being driven by the metro area, it is being driven by what’s happening in Greater Minnesota," she said.

So what do all these numbers mean as we change seasons?

"We do see more gatherings coming up with holidays and family get-togethers, all of those things provide opportunities for potential spread," Ehresmann said.

"For sure we all have the ability to influence what happens over the next few months and we can influence that by making sure we are taking advantage of the vaccine, that we are masking when we are in indoor settings because of the high levels of transmission in our state, that people are avoiding large crowds and social distancing, in situations when you think you’ve been exposed or attended an event that you’re concerned about to get tested, and certainly stay home if you’re sick," she added. "All of those things will make a difference in helping us control COVID transmission in Minnesota."