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COVID-19 in MN: State backs CDC school masking guidance as caseloads climb

Jul 28, 2021 02:51PM ● By Editor
CentraCare nurse Kylee Ressemann pre-fills syringes with the Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 on April 7 at First Presbyterian Church in Foley, Minn.  Photo: Paul Middlestaedt | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - July 28, 2021

Minnesota’s summer swing in COVID-19 cases continues. While it remains relatively mild compared to earlier surges, Wednesday’s numbers make it clear the disease has at least one more punch to deliver.

New caseloads are trending at about 400 a day over the past seven reporting days, up dramatically from 150 two weeks ago. Active cases topped 3,000 for the first time since late May.

“The speed of case growth is truly concerning,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Wednesday.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Hospital and intensive care needs are all heading higher again — 202 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 56 needing intensive care — and the rate of tests coming back positive for the disease is edging back up toward the 5 percent threshold that officials find concerning.

State public health leaders on Monday placed a heavy emphasis on the need to boost vaccinations to head off the highly contagious delta strain, which they said is now driving 75 percent of new cases.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Malcolm noted state data showing that through July 15, 99.9 percent of Minnesotans who are fully vaccinated have not contracted the virus.

The state is in a much better position than in November or April thanks to vaccinations. Nearly 70 percent of state residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccination shot. 

Officials hope to reach that 70-percent threshold by the end of August, although the rate of vaccination continues to sputter along. 

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

Still, there are wide gaps in the vaccination rate among Minnesota regions. “Some parts of Minnesota are fairly well protected” while regions with low vaccination rates are “extremely vulnerable,” Malcolm said.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 adult vaccination rate

New deaths remain relatively low. There were four newly reported deaths posted Wednesday. Still, deaths are a lagging statistic that tends to rise following a surge in cases.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

MN officials back CDC guidance to mask all school students, staff

Separately Wednesday, the Minnesota Health Department came out in support of new recommendations by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling on all students, staff and visitors to K-12 school buildings this fall to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

Health officials say the guidance is intended to “protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated or who remain at higher risk because of immune-comprised status or other conditions.”

New information shows people infected with the delta variant can have high viral loads so that even fully vaccinated people carrying delta could spread it to others, said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director.

The recommendations also urge anyone 12 and older to get vaccinated before returning to in-person school, sports and other activities, and that those not fully vaccinated should get tested regularly.

Officials stressed that these were recommendations and not mandates, and that local school leaders will make the decisions. The state had required masks for the last school year, but the general statewide mandate was lifted in May. Gov. Tim Walz does not currently have the authority to order mask wearing. 

The CDC said Tuesday that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in parts of the United States where the disease is surging.

Under this guidance, the counties shaded below in orange are the ones where COVID-19 is prevalent enough that they'd recommend all people — even those vaccinated — wear masks in public:

latest mask recommendations
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