ROCHESTER, Minn. — Minnesota health officials reported on Tuesday, Nov. 24, an additional 6,423 cases of COVID-19. The new cases bring the state's laboratory-confirmed case total to 282,916.
Outstate hotspots included Stearns County, which had 273 cases and four deaths, and Kandiyohi County, with 174 cases and four deaths. Olmsted County, home of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, saw three more deaths.
The 38 statewide deaths reported Tuesday were split evenly between the metro and Greater Minnesota. The youngest person reported on Tuesday to have died from the illness was a resident of Dakota County in their 30s.
There have been 360 deaths from COVID-19 in the last seven days.
Over 50,000 tests were reported on Tuesday.
Minnesota hospitals are providing 1,080 more beds for COVID-19 patients than at the beginning of the month, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. That figure is especially striking, because unused beds are not an item in excess in most hospitals. Cost-cutting within state health systems has long labored to reduce overhead, preferring to run the hospitals close to full.
With 1,828 Minnesotans now hospitalized from the illness, and 379 in the ICU, hospitals continue to face a spike in demand with multiple staff remaining out with the virus. The soaring numbers of health care workers stricken with COVID-19 does not always mean, however, that every health system is close to capacity.
During a Tuesday call with the media, Dr. Amy Williams, dean of clinical practice for Mayo Clinic, offered clarification about hundreds of Mayo Clinic and affiliated Health System staff members who contracted COVID-19. The more than 900 cases include a large variety of workers, many of whom do not face patients and some of whom work at home, she said.
With 55,000 employees in the Midwest alone, the workers made up just 2.8% of Mayo staff, she said.
"The bottom line is, that is a small percentage of our staff," Williams said of the 900 sickened with COVID-19. She reiterated that 93% of Mayo workers who contracted the illness had done so off campus, while exposed to members of the community. "The one thing we can do to help our health care workers," she said, "is to remain vigilant about mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing."
Williams said that Mayo had 87 COVID-19 hospitalized patients in Rochester, 27 in the ICU.
During a call with reporters on Tuesday, state health officials took pains to stress that while certain markers of the spread appear to have paused, they were not ready to read those changes as the mark of a peak, as some have suggested.
With 19.4% more cases this week than the 24.4% week-over-week jump recorded previously, and with the state's seven-day test positivity rate down to 14.3 % from 15.2% a week prior, some have posited that wave now underway within the state may be leveling off.
"We have seen our case numbers fluctuating from day-to-day all along," said state Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. "We would not think we have a reliable trend here just yet. While we have begun to see a lower case count, we think it may be a trough between waves, and do not necessarily think we are seeing the downside of peak."
Health officials also stressed that getting a test prior to travelling to an extended family Thanksgiving is not proof of protection from the illness.
"If we thought getting tested prior to visiting was a means of getting people together, we would have suggested it," said Kris Ehresmann, state director of infectious disease. "A test is only as good as the day of the test, and it isn't a means to safely gather, so we want to discourage that."
The only scenario wherein a test might confer safe sharing of turkey with those outside the immediate family, Ehresmann said, was one in which a person took a test, got a negative result, then quarantined for 14 days prior to doing so.
For all others: "if people are going to ignore the executive order against extended gatherings — which we don't advise — I would ask that you assume everyone is potentially infectious, wear a mask at all times and socially distance."
With the state having never before been asked to cancel its holiday, health officials await the results of the coming weeks with caution. At Mayo, officials are already preparing for a new surge, two weeks after Thanksgiving.
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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.