3 things to know:
622 hospitalized; 98 in ICU; hospitalizations falling quickly
New cases trending at lowest point since September
Twin Cities wastewater data shows small amounts of a new strain of the omicron variant
Updated: 4:57 pm
Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 numbers offer more evidence of a rapidly receding surge, with fewer than 100 COVID patients in ICUs now and active cases below 10,000, the lowest levels for both since August.
The metrics aren’t yet down to their summer lows but are headed in the right direction. Statewide, new daily cases are trending at their lowest point since September.
Overall, there are about 9,800 active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota. That’s down dramatically from mid-January, when active cases topped 67,000.
Hospitalization counts have also fallen rapidly – 622 people are currently hospitalized with COVID, with 98 people needing an intensive care bed.
On Friday, state data showed 801 COVID hospitalizations with 126 ICU patients.
Hospitals across the state have been stretched to the breaking point the past two months as COVID cases and other rising health care needs grew rapidly. Conditions are improving, though.
Health officials continue to plead for vigilance against the disease, including masking in indoor public spaces, as the numbers are still somewhat high. In late June, Minnesota appeared to be through the worst of the pandemic.
The most recent map from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to show all Minnesota counties except for Rock and Jackson in the southwest with a high rate of viral transmission.
The current wave, though, appears to be past its peak. An especially good sign came last week when the Metropolitan Council’s latest batch of Twin Cities wastewater data showed COVID concentrations at their lowest since July, before the omicron mutation began whacking Minnesota.
The Met Council’s analysis of Twin Cities wastewater has detected small amounts of the “BA.2” omicron variant in the metro area.
The strain, which has become prevalent in South Africa and Denmark, was averaging about 4.3 percent of COVID genetic material in the Twin Cities as of Feb. 14 and the original omicron strain, called “BA.1,” represented more than 94 percent of COVID particles.
So far, the appearance of the new strain has coincided with falling case rates and COVID prevalence in wastewater.
Minnesota’s positive test rate has been moving steadily downward, with sample data showing positivity falling significantly back closer to the 5 percent threshold of concern for state health officials. With the delays in data reporting, it’s possible the state’s back below that level already.
Not all the numbers are good.
Twenty-six newly reported deaths put the state’s death toll at 12,019. Deaths typically follow a surge in cases and hospitalizations. In past COVID-19 waves, it’s been the last of the key metrics to improve. Death rates have been falling recent weeks.
Still, thanks to vaccinations Minnesota is better positioned now than during its fall 2020 and spring 2021 spikes: 78 percent of state residents age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with nearly 74 percent now completely vaccinated.
Officials say roughly 70 percent of Minnesota’s total population is now vaccinated with at least one shot, with about two-thirds completely vaccinated.
The struggle continues to get first shots into more Minnesotans, especially in central Minnesota.
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