More than 1,000 Minnesotans have now died in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health officials reported the grim milestone Saturday as 30 more deaths pushed the statewide toll to 1,026.
The state reported its first COVID-19 death on March 21, exactly 10 weeks ago.
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic and passed a thousand deaths,” Gov. Tim Walz said during a news conference Saturday about the state’s response to unrest following the death of George Floyd. “We still have hospitals that are on the verge of being overrun with COVID-19.”
Minnesota is beginning to loosen social restrictions designed to slow the pandemic, including houses of worship that can host weekend services at 25% of capacity.
But state officials say the Twin Cities metro is a hot spot for COVID-19 nationally. And they’ve suggested spread of the virus could be furthered as people gather to the protest the death of Floyd, who died after being forcibly restrained by Minneapolis police.
To control the spread, health officials have suggested that people wear cloth masks when out in public, but Walz said some who have infiltrated protests simply to cause havoc are wearing masks as disguises.
“The masks worn by people there were to cause confusion and take advantage of this situation,” Walz said, “but the rest of us need to maintain that.”
The number of confirmed cases increased by 659 statewide, according to data posted Saturday morning by the Minnesota Department of Health. The rate of increase in new cases across the state has moderated over the past week.
A total of 589 people require hospitalization, compared with 592 on Friday, the Health Department said. There were 263 patients in the ICU, compared with 259 in intensive care on Friday. Concerns have been growing in recent weeks about the continued growth in patients needing hospital and intensive care, particularly in the Twin Cities.
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus that surfaced late last year. Since the first case was reported in Minnesota on March 6, a total of 3,011 people have been hospitalized, up from 2,936 on Friday.
People at greatest risk from COVID-19 include: those age 65 years and older, residents of long-term care facilities, and those with underlying medical conditions. The medical conditions range from lung disease, serious heart conditions and cancer to severe obesity, diabetes and kidney patients who need dialysis.
Residents of long-term care accounted for 26 of the 30 newly announced deaths.
Numbers released Saturday show Minnesota’s confirmed case count of 24,190 grew from Friday’s tally of 23,531 cases. As of Saturday, health care workers account for 2,646 cases statewide.
Cases continue to be reported in 85 of the state’s 87 counties, with none confirmed in Cook and Lake of the Woods counties.
A total of 17,864 Minnesotans who were infected with the novel coronavirus no longer need to be in isolation, up from 16,930 people at Friday’s data release.
The state completed about 8,635 tests during the most recent 24-hour period for data collection. Two weeks ago, state officials said there was capacity for more than 10,000 tests per day, but just a fraction of the total was being used.
Most patients with COVID-19 don’t need to be hospitalized. The illness usually causes mild or moderate sickness, the Health Department says, and does not require a clinic visit.
The Health Department added to its list of congregate care facilities publicly identified with at least one COVID-19 case among residents or staff, upping the total to 249 facilities. State officials are releasing names only for facilities with at least 10 residents.
Numbers published Saturday morning cover the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.