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Delta variant spurs a jump in Minnesota hospitalizations, deaths

New cases of COVID-19 in the state, along with hospitalizations and deaths, have climbed since last week due to the COVID-19 delta variant.

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Photo: Unsplash/Fusion Medical Animation

ST. PAUL — The delta variant has fueled a jump in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Minnesota and it has renewed calls from public officials that unvaccinated Minnesotans seek out a shot.

State health officials on Friday, Aug. 13, said the new and more infectious version of COVID-19 had found a hold in the state, especially in people who'd not been immunized against the illness, and spurred a tenfold increase in average new cases each day compared to those reported a month earlier.

The new cases come after Minnesota experienced a downswing of COVID-19 cases earlier this summer. And while officials said broader vaccination among Minnesotans helped limit the spread of the delta variant, they were growing concerned about the variant's spread.

"We definitely don't like the trends," Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters. "We were a lot happier when all the indicators were going in the right direction."

More than half of Minnesota counties this week entered the high COVID-19 transmission category assessed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all but seven counties are in the substantial transmission category. And the heightened transmission was fueled by the new variant, Malcolm said. The delta variant made up 95% of specimens sequenced.

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And the trend also affected long-term care facilities, where newly reported COVID-19 cases grew 300% compared to those reported four weeks prior. Young Minnesotans also became sickened with COVID-19 at rates higher than previously reported, Malcolm said. In the last two months, 83 children ages 9 and younger had been hospitalized with the illness.

"With a virus as contagious as delta, and we have said it is a whole different game, we all need to do our part," Malcolm said, urging those who've not been vaccinated against the illness to seek out a shot.

In the face of the more contagious variant and with $100 incentives on the table, the state saw a surge in people seeking out vaccinations, Minnesota Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann said. And that put the state over the 70% mark for Minnesotans 16 and older who'd been vaccinated.

Malcolm and Ehresmann said while the delta variant posed a new threat to the state, it comes at a time when more people are protected against the illness through immunizations. And they noted that it hadn't grown to the size of prior waves of COVID-19 infection.

Vulnerable groups to be eligible for additional vaccine

Following the news Friday that some immunocompromised people would become eligible for another dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, Malcolm said the state was starting to assess which groups could seek out another dose. And she said the state had adequate supply to start administering those shots once the eligibility requirements were sorted out.

"This announcement is really a welcome development in helping to protect some of our most vulnerable Minnesotans because the data has really become much more clear in recent weeks and months that people who have a compromised immune system may not develop a good immune response to the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine," Malcolm said.

Malcolm and Ehresmann also discouraged those who'd not undergone an organ transplant or experienced illnesses that limit their immune response from seeking out a booster dose.

Following are the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Friday. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

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Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 7,063
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE OF NEW CASES: 1,000

  • TOTAL CASES: 624,851
  • TOTAL RECOVERED: 608,472
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE TEST POSITIVITY RATE: 4.62%

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • NEW HOSPITALIZATIONS: 352

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 389

  • TOTAL HOSPITALIZATIONS: 33,930

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED: 35

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 7,729

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 3,231,088 and 58% of the state's total population

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 DOSES): 3,035,371 and 64.4% of the eligible population

The prevalence of the delta variant along with a state incentive to provide $100 to those who get vaccinated before Aug. 15 has driven up new vaccinations in the state.
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