Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Death rate continues slowing
Jun 24, 2020 05:40AM
From Minnesota Public Radio News - June 24, 2020
Health officials reported a slight uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care cases Tuesday, though those two closely watched virus metrics continued on a downward trend.
The daily rate of deaths continued to slow, too, with Tuesday marking the first time since mid-April that the state reported three consecutive days of deaths in the single digits.
Here are the latest coronavirus statistics:
33,469 cases confirmed (245 new) via 520,045 tests
1,393 deaths (9 new)
3,860 cases requiring hospitalization
339 people remain hospitalized; 158 in intensive care
29,399 patients no longer needing isolation
Avoiding the ER?
The newest numbers came a day after Minnesota health officials said they’re increasingly concerned that people with serious health problems who need emergency room care are not seeking that care amid COVID-19 fears.
It’s especially worrisome for people who might be suffering heart attacks, strokes or low blood sugar, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Monday. She cited national data showing double-digit percentage drops in emergency room visits compared to the weeks before it hit the United States.“Our health care systems are ready to care for you safely” despite the pressure from COVID-19, she said on Monday.
Dr. Cameron Berg, interim medical director at North Memorial’s emergency department, said the hospital has seen a dramatic change since they started caring for COVID-19 patients.
“Our emergency department takes care of roughly 200 patients on an average day in the springtime. And within a couple of weeks of COVID landing, those volumes had gone down by nearly 50 percent,” Berg said. The Robbinsdale hospital saw drops across the board, including for heart attacks and strokes.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportreleased Monday, in the 10 weeks following the declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency, emergency rooms saw a 23 percent drop in heart attack patients, a 20 percent stroke patients and a 10 percent drop in uncontrolled high blood sugar.
Ehresmann and Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also reiterated ongoing worries that parents are not keeping up with regular vaccinations for their children because of COVID-19 fears.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the number of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine doses given out this year has been down by as much as 70 percent, from the same week in 2019, though that gap narrowed to around 35 percent last week.
Children’s Minnesota, the pediatric hospital system in St. Paul and Minneapolis, says it has dispensed far fewer vaccines than normal.
- Don't skip your child's well checkDelays in vaccines could add up to big problems
“When we look at Children's in terms of total doses, we'll give between 800 and 1,000 infant vaccines a month. And during the pandemic, we dropped down to right around 400, or less than 400 a month,” said Patsy Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner in infectious disease at Children’s.
Stinchfield said this month the number of vaccinations is rising, but still not quickly enough. “What we worry most about is measles because it's so contagious,” Stinchfield said.
Children’s has opened up drive-up immunizations to make them more convenient. They’re also encouraging families to vaccinate their children.
Health Department officials say this year it’s very important for people to get their influenza vaccine, as the flu looks similar to COVID-19 but can also take up medical resources through the winter.
Meatpacking hot spots remain
Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.
That includes Mower County in southeastern Minnesota, where there were 813 confirmed cases as of Tuesday.
Mower County is home to Hormel Foods and Quality Pork Processors. Both have been partnering with Mayo Clinic to ramp up employee testing.
While some of Mower County’s positive cases are associated with people who work in the facilities and with the people they live with, county officials say they are also seeing transmission among people who live in the county but work in other counties where coronavirus is present.
Health officials held a COVID-19 testing push in Austin, Minn., over the weekend.
Nobles, in southwestern Minnesota, reported 1,634 confirmed cases Tuesday. About 1 in 14 people now have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county, although there have only been a few additional cases recorded the past few days.
Worthington’s massive JBS pork processing plant was the epicenter of the Nobles outbreak. The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.
Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.
An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Tuesday, confirmed cases were at 2,139 with 19 deaths.
Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases continue to climb more than a month after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases then.
As of Tuesday, the Health Department reported 561 people have now tested positive in the county.
Cases have also climbed noticeably in Cottonwood County, home to a pork processing plant in Windom, and in Lyon County, around a turkey processor in Marshall.
Youth sports may resume soon
State health officials have announced that youth sports can resume in the coming weeks. Outdoor sports can return to games and scrimmages starting Wednesday, and indoor sports July 1 or later, under the Health Department’s recommended guidance.
Among the recommendations, the department calls on players to:
Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towels
Try to use “dedicated personal equipment” such as bats, mitts and rackets
Find new ways to show sportsmanship, including “tip your hats instead of handshakes.”
While following the guidance can help reduce risk, “in the end everyone has to make their own decisions about what level of risk they are willing to accept,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.
Officials also said the Minnesota Department of Education is working with the Minnesota State High School League to develop activities and sports guidance for schools for the fall sports season.
Developments from around the state
COVID-19 positivity rates among Floyd protesters remain low
Minnesota's top health officials on Monday said Twin Cities testing sites set up in the wake of protests over the killing of George Floyd are showing positive rates of less than 2 percent, suggesting that a rapid spread of the disease stemming from the protests is not happening in a way officials had feared.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said more than 15,000 people were tested for COVID-19 through four state testing sites following recent mass gatherings in the Twin Cities.
Malcolm said the results were a relief partly because many hospitals are still running close to capacity with COVID-19 and restarting other hospital procedures.
"We were able to meet the need for testing for a lot of people in the community and pleased to see positivity rates for those tests following mass gatherings was under 2 percent,” she said during the Health Department’s daily briefing on Monday.
It's unclear if most demonstrators were tested.
— Nina Moini | MPR News
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