A pivotal week in Minnesota’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic started on Tuesday with the reporting of 652 more lab-confirmed cases and 18 deaths.
Health officials will be watching this week for any change in trends that could be traced back to the end on May 19 of Minnesota’s stay-home order, and any increase in disease transmission due to more person-to-person contact.
The state has now reported 21,960 cases in the course of the pandemic, which is caused by a highly infectious and novel coronavirus, and 899 deaths. The death toll includes 732 people who had been living in long-term care facilities, or just over 8 out of 10 of the fatalities.
Hospitalizations will be closely monitored as well. The state on Tuesday reported 570 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, including 258 who needed intensive care. That is an increase of nearly 25% from the 207 COVID-19 cases in intensive care reported Sunday.
The state on Tuesday continued to report that 1,045 of 1,257 immediately available ICU beds are filled with patients who have COVID-19 or unrelated medical conditions. In addition, 1,120 ICU beds could be readied within 72 hours, and state hospital officials said last week that some facilities are already taking steps to use them.
The delayed incubation period, following infection by the virus that causes COVID-19, means that any increase in cases related to increased mobility of Minnesotans wouldn’t show up until this week at the earliest.
The state has added new sources of mobility data to its COVID-19 response website to track whether there is an increase in face-to-face contact that could result in more disease transmission. Traffic levels continue to be below average, according to the latest available data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
However, the level of “unpredictable” travel by Minnesotans is starting to rise, the state COVID-19 page shows. Analysis of mobile phone data by Camber Systems shows when people are making more trips from home, or trips that deviate from usual routines — which could result in more disease transmission opportunities.
Unpredictable travel had declined in every county in Minnesota from the start of the year until late March. Now, especially in rural Minnesota, this type of travel is rising.
Efforts to reduce disease transmission accompanied the end of the stay-home order, though. Retailers were allowed to open up, but needed social distancing plans in place, such as limiting the number of customers in stores. Health officials have also encouraged that people wear cloth masks, which can prevent the infection from spreading to others.
Religious services had been capped at 10 people, but clergy leaders reached a deal this weekend with Gov. Tim Walz to proceed with services that employ social distancing protections and are capped at 250 people and no more than 25% capacity of worship space.