ROCHESTER, Minn. — Stating that "obviously, this new case total eclipses the record that we just set last week," the Minnesota commissioner of health reported an additional 2,872 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, Oct. 29.
"Today's case count is by far our highest single-day increase in cases," Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during an afternoon press call. "But the way things have been going, I'm sorry to say I don't think that record's going to hold for very long."
After four straight days over the threshold, Malcolm said, "it appears that 2,000 or more cases a day is becoming our new norm. And I think we need to brace ourselves for days with bigger totals yet to come."
Testing has been high this week, but Malcolm characterized the growth in new cases as "being driven by literally thousands of seemingly small decisions that people are making every day, without realizing the impact their decisions are having on their families, neighbors and community."
Of the day's new cases, 1,595, or 55%, were recorded in counties outside of the Twin Cities seven-county metro area, a rural over-representation of COVID-19 given the regions hold just 45% of the state population.
While the state's most populous counties — Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota — led the day's new case counts, metro counties no longer are the only districts posting cases in the triple digits. In outstate Minnesota for example, St. Louis County had 114 cases on Thursday, and Stearns County had 171 cases.
Other notable hotspots throughout Greater Minnesota included Becker County with 32 cases for the day, Clay County with 65 and Wright County with 73 cases.
Also on Thursday, the state reported 32 deaths from COVID-19, in persons ranging in age from their late 50s to over 100. Eighteen of the deceased were residents of counties outside the metro area, which had 14 deaths. Twenty of the deceased were residents of long-term care. The statewide death total is now 2,419.
Health officials drew attention to a new study published Thursday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Minnesota research has learned over a third of high-risk exposures for health care workers studied occurred not in direct patient care, but in their homes and communities, according to state director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann.
"Multiple activities associated with gatherings outside of work — for example, social gatherings like birthday parties, weddings, and bonfires — led to COVID-19 cases in health care facilities," Ehresmann said.
Recent data shows the ratio has flipped, Ehresmann said, with 60 percent of health care worker cases now due to community and household exposure.
Also noted in the report, staffing shortages meant that long-term care workers returned to work before the end of a quarantine in 57% of cases, and that 5% percent of long-term care workers worked while symptomatic. Ehresmann said that since then assistance for staffing included in Gov. Tim Walz's five-point plan has meant significant reductions in the number of workers working while symptomatic.
Ehresmann noted that as of September health care workers in the state had been exposed to COVID-19 1,039 times, compared to 1,928 in April. "So you can see the impact when the preventions were enacted. What's concerning is we are seeing those numbers go back up again ... because of exposures in the community."
The state reported on Thursday an additional 27,000 tests for the day, approaching the limit of the system's voluminous testing capacity prior to the addition of saliva testing centers now coming online across the state. Next week on Wednesday and Thursday, MDH plans "no-barriers" testing events in Fergus Falls, Mora and Pipestone. Anyone can be tested who wishes to be tested.
With 42 more residents hospitalized as of Thursday, the state now has 685 people in the hospital with COVID-19, "a high-water mark," said Malcolm. There are 168 people in the ICU, which is not a record.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.