Schools within a county that is experiencing a rate of 50+ cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents is advised by state officials to move to distance learning for students at all grade levels, and the number of counties that have surpassed that threshold in Minnesota continues to rise.
In Thursday's weekly report from the Minnesota Department of Health, as of the two-week period ending Oct. 10, there are 19 counties with at least 50 cases per 10,000 residents. In last week's report, there were nine counties at the mark, while a month ago (for the week ending Sept. 12) there was just one county.
The 19 counties in this week's report are all in greater Minnesota:
- Rock County - 90.30 cases per 10,000 residents
- Chippewa County - 79.93
- Kandiyohi County - 75.48
- Pipestone County - 72.95
- Waseca County - 69.65
- Mahnomen - 67.20
- Morrison County - 59.79
- Clay County - 59.08
- Lincoln County - 57.82
- Murray County - 56.27
- Wilkin County - 55.18
- Big Stone County - 53.83
- Yellow Medicine County - 53.71
- Hubbard County - 53.21
- Martin County - 52.59
- Lyon County - 52.25
- Itasca County - 51.77
- Wadena County - 51.30
- Lac qui Parle County - 50.20
The infection rates per 10,000 residents are specifically designed to help school districts make an informed decision about teach models, be it in-person instruction, distance learning or a hybrid of the two – and it's based on the number of cases per 10,000 residents over a 14-day period.
- 0-9 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for all students
- 10-19 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students
- 20-29 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for all students
- 30-49 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students
- 50+ cases per 10,000 residents: Distance learning for all students
In addition to the 19 counties that are above 50 cases per 10,000 residents, there are 26 counties with 30-49 cases per 10,000 residents. Of those 26, eleven counties have between 40-49 cases per 10,000, putting them close to the 50 mark at which 100% distance learning is recommended.
The surge in cases in Minnesota has ultimately led to more deaths, with 35 reported Wednesday by the Department of Health tying May 28 for the most in a 24-hour reporting period. An additional 20 deaths reported Thursday pushed Minnesota's total since March to 2,301.
Public health officials fear that a surge in cases in greater Minnesota will undoubtedly lead to more deaths.
“We will see more and more deaths in greater Minnesota because of the high caseload in that area,” said Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann, on Wednesday.
As of Oct. 21, the state's hospitals have a maximum capacity of 1,898 ICU beds. That number changes daily based on patients being admitted, discharged and the number of healthcare workers who are available to staff the beds. Of the 1,898 ICU beds, 1,061 were occupied, including 154 COVID-19 patients.