ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota labs screening for omicron variant as COVID wave persists

No cases of newly-identified omicron variant had been reported in the U.S. as of Monday, though public health officials agree it is only a matter of time before it emerges.

fusion-medical-animation-EAgGqOiDDMg-unsplash.jpg
Photo: Unsplash/Fusion Medical Animation
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — While no cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus had been detected in the U.S. as of Monday afternoon, Nov. 29, Minnesota health officials said they continue to monitor for the newly identified strain.

In a statement, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state has a system in place to detect new strains of the virus and will report if the omicron variant is detected.

New variants are expected to occur, Malcolm said, adding that the best course of action anyone can take to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

"Fortunately, Minnesota has built one of the nation's strongest genomic sequencing and variant surveillance systems," the statement said. "If an Omicron variant infection is found in Minnesota, we will share that information as soon as possible."

Minnesota monitors some but not all COVID-19 tests for new variants at the state public health lab. Labs running testing for the virus spot suspected positive samples with potential markers of a variant and pass them along to the state, according to Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz.

ADVERTISEMENT

The process of detecting variants involves sequencing the entire genome of the specimen and takes longer to complete than running a typical test for COVID-19 — up to 42 hours to run 100 tests, according to MDH. The state does not release those results to doctors or patients.

The World Health Organization last week labeled the omicron variant a "variant of concern" due to a large number of mutations and steep increase in infections in South Africa, where the strain was first identified. Scientists are still working to determine if the variant is more infectious or causes worse illness than previous coronavirus variants. It also remained unclear early this week whether the vaccine is less effective in protecting against the new strain.

While the omicron variant's impact remains uncertain, many countries have already taken steps to prevent its spread, including travel restrictions on southern African countries. As of Monday, the strain had been found in countries including the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Portugal and Spain. Public health officials say the variant will likely appear in the U.S.

With a new strain looming, Minnesota's seven-day average COVID-19 case rate led the nation Sunday, with 426 cases per 100,000 people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The level the CDC considers high risk is 100 or more per 100,000.

MDH reported 44 deaths and 4,511 new cases of COVID-19 Monday as hospitalizations for the virus remained at highs not seen since late 2020.

Daily average case numbers and test positivity rates remain in the high-risk category of community spread set by the CDC. The seven-day rolling average case rate per 100,000 people as of Nov. 19, the most recently available data from MDH, was 76, more than seven times higher than the lower threshold of high risk of 10 per 100,000 people. The rolling average test positivity rate as of Nov. 19 was 10.9%, slightly down from the 11% reported a few days before.

The state's most recent count of hospitalizations for COVID-19 was 1,467. The ongoing surge in cases has strained the state's hospitals, leaving 72% without intensive care unit beds for adults. Monday's hospitalization numbers come from Friday counts as the Thanksgiving holiday delayed data processing.

The Monday case number update includes data from 4 a.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Friday. Officials plan to release weekend case data on Tuesday. The state did not update vaccination numbers on Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 4,511
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE OF NEW CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 76 (as of 11/19)

  • TOTAL CASES, INCLUDING REINFECTIONS: 899,739
  • TOTAL REINFECTIONS: 10,111
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE TEST POSITIVITY RATE: 10.9 (as of 11/19)

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 1,467

  • TOTAL HOSPITALIZATIONS: 45,431

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED: 44

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 9,125

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 3,631,472 or 69.7% of ages 5 and up

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 doses): 3,346,984 or 64.2% of ages 5 and up

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper righthand corner of the homepage.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
What to read next
Bebtelovimab is designed as a treatment option for those newly diagnosed with COVID-19 who cannot take Paxlovid and are deemed at high risk of severe outcomes. It replaces a series of monoclonal treatments that no longer are effective against virus due to mutation.
The JRMC Cancer Center, which was fully funded by donors in the community, started seeing patients in June 2019.
For decades, the drug industry has yelled bloody murder each time Congress considered a regulatory measure that threatened its profits. But the hyperbole reached a new pitch in recent weeks as the Senate moved to adopt modest drug pricing negotiation measures in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Sanford Health’s Program for Addiction Recovery provided Tanner Lene a way to connect to a heritage he’d left largely unexplored, as he began to learn Ojibwe and join classes taught by elders and knowledge keepers on traditional medicines and art.