Good signs about COVID seen in Minn. as public health emergency about to end
We're seeing decreasing case counts, hospitalizations and mortality, plus less detection of the virus in wastewater monitoring efforts
ST. PAUL — The approaching May 11 ending of the federal government’s official COVID-19 public health emergency is accompanied by several good signs about the virus, including decreasing case counts, hospitalizations and mortality, as well as decreased detection of the virus in wastewater monitoring efforts.
This week, an article in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” revealed that the monovalent mRNA COVID vaccine remained 56% effective in adults against invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) and death one to two years after the last dose.
The report looked at patients with between two and four monovalent mRNA COVID vaccine doses during the omicron wave, Feb. 1, 2022, through Jan. 31.
Overall, the monovalent vaccine was 62% effective among adults 18 years and older and effectiveness bumped up to 69% among adults 65 years and older. Additionally, vaccine effectiveness was highest, at 76%, among those who had their last dose within six months, but the vaccine remained 56% effective in people even one to two years after their last dose.
Despite the continued evidence of the importance of COVID-19 vaccination, our recent “Inoculation Nation” update found that fewer Americans were vaccinated in March than ever since the shots became available, even though fewer than one in five of those eligible for the bivalent booster have received the shot.
In other less-than-sunny recent COVID news, yet another new strain has surfaced.
As reported by our colleagues at LAist , XBB.1.16, also called “Arcturus,” proliferated in India, and its presence has grown to account for about 10% of U.S. cases. (And slightly more in the CDC’s region five, which includes Minnesota.)
Three main takeaways from the latest COVID data:
- Officially reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations trend down for the ninth week.
- Four-week and one-week declines in COVID wastewater levels reported for all regions of the state, according to latest data.
- The CDC rates all Minnesota counties with low COVID community levels, and only three counties have a case rate that meets the threshold for high transmission.
Officially reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations trend down; deaths also down
The MDH’s latest weekly COVID-19 data release shows COVID-19 conditions in the state continue to improve.
Officially reported cases have now declined for nine weeks straight.
Hospital admissions, a more robust measure due to the lack of reporting for cases confirmed through at-home testing, have trended downward over the same period, except for a tiny uptick in late March.
Notably, weekly COVID hospital admissions, 130 for the week ending April 20, have not been this low since July 2021. The much smaller proportion of intensive care unit hospitalizations, numbering 33 in the most recent week, have not dropped as precipitously as those to non-ICU beds in the last couple weeks — but are also near the lowest levels seen throughout the pandemic.
COVID-19 mortality is also trending in the right direction, with the number of deaths decreasing for five weeks as of the week ending April 6 (mortality data takes longer to confirm, so lags both case counts and hospitalizations). Still, 29 Minnesotans lost their lives at least in part due to COVID-19 during the most recent week.
APM Research Lab’s monthly “Color of Coronavirus” update , published last week, found that national COVID-19 deaths were down by 40% in February, the last month of complete data, compared to January, and that “Deaths in all racial and ethnic groups went down at a similar rate.”
COVID levels in wastewater throughout the state are on a downward trend
The total level of virus in Twin Cities wastewater decreased by 6% for the week ending April 24 compared to the previous week, according to the latest data from the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota’s Genomic Center .
While this is a relatively modest one-week decline, the virus level has declined 77% from where it was nine weeks ago. Currently, the level of virus now entering the Metro Plant is at its lowest since late March 2022.
COVID levels dropped in all seven Minnesota regions over the most recent four-week and one-week periods, according to the latest data out of the University of Minnesota’s Wastewater SARS-CoV2 Surveillance Study .
Over the four weeks ending on April 16, COVID wastewater levels dropped by more than 50% for all the study’s regions except the Twin Cities Metro, which was just shy of that threshold at a decline of 47%. The largest four-week decline was 83% in the North East region.
In our last update two weeks ago, we noted that the South Central region was the only region to have a substantial increase, 205%, in COVID levels in the wastewater. At the time, the graph showed that the region was likely on the downward slope of that bump.
The most recent data shows that COVID levels in wastewater declined by 75% in that region over the past four weeks and 42% over the past week, which was the highest one-week change for this update.
All 87 Minnesota counties given low community-level rating
For the third week in a row, the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level assessment for Minnesota has placed all 87 of the state’s counties at a low COVID community level. The CDC said three counties exceed the threshold for high transmission.
Polk, Pennington and Grant counties are the only counties in Minnesota that meet the high transmission threshold of at least 100 cases per 100,000 this week, although all three are below 200 per 100,000.
So why don’t those counties receive a higher community level assessment? According to the CDC’s criteria , if the COVID case rate is below 200 per 100,000 people and the COVID hospitalization rate is below 10 per 100,000 people, which it is for all three counties, then it warrants a low community-level rating.
Grant County comes closest to a higher rating, with a COVID hospitalization rate of 9.3 per 100,000 people.
Still, people who are more vulnerable to COVID infection, or are in regular contact with those who are, may want to take precautions in those counties such as masking while indoors and social distancing.
Only seven counties are in the “substantial” transmission range (50 to 99 cases per 100,000) this week. This number is down from 18 at the beginning of the month.