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The latest COVID-19 case rates show that Minnesota and Michigan continue to be the epicenter of the pandemic's latest wave in the United States. 

According to data from the New York Times, Minnesota is second in the nation at 75 cases per 100,000 residents. The Land of 10,000 Lakes, which had the worst case rate in the country earlier this week, has been surpassed by Michigan (82 cases per 100,000) in the past 24 hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) says anything over 10 cases per 100,000 people indicates widespread transmission of the coronavirus. The delta variant of the coronavirus has been tightening its grip on Minnesota for the past three months, with new cases every day now routinely between 3,000 and 5,000. 

That has led to a surge in hospitalizations, with the state health department reporting 1,381 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, including 333 in intensive care. It's the most in Minnesota since the pre-vaccine days of early December 2020. 

On the New York Times' list of the 100 counties with the highest case rates in the country (counties with fewer than 10,000 residents are excluded), 19 are in Minnesota. They are: 

  • 3. Dodge County - 155 cases per 100K
  • 8. Wadena - 145
  • 12. Goodhue - 133
  • 20. Sherburne - 124
  • 24. Kanabec - 119
  • 24. Mille Lacs - 119
  • 32. Douglas - 115
  • 39. Todd - 113
  • 40. Roseau - 112
  • 43. Pope - 110
  • 53. Pine - 106
  • 56. Itasca - 105
  • 67. Benton - 101
  • 69. Wabasha - 100
  • 69. Meeker - 100
  • 69. Wright - 100
  • 75. Beltrami - 99
  • 80. Kandiyohi - 97
  • 83. Morrison - 96

If you take away the 10,000+ population qualifier, there are 22 counties in Minnesota with case rates at 100 or higher. The six Minnesota counties that didn't qualify for the New York Times list due to having fewer than 10,000 residents are: 

  • Stevens County - 150 cases per 100K
  • Kittson - 123
  • Swift - 119
  • Lac Qui Parle - 119
  • Mahnomen - 103
  • Grant - 103

Minnesota and Michigan combine for 49 counties at the 100+ rate, whereas the 48 other U.S. states have a combined total of 70 counties at the 100+ rate. 

Here's a look at all 50 states and how many counties with 100+ cases per 100,000 people they have. Literally half of the 50 states don't have a single county at the 100+ rate.

Alabama (0), Alaska (7), Arizona (1), Arkansas (0), California (0), Colorado (4), Connecticut (0), Delaware (0), Florida (0), Georgia (0), Hawaii (0), Idaho (0), Illinois (0), Indiana (0), Iowa (4), Kansas (14), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (0), Maine (0), Maryland (0), Massachusetts (0), Michigan (27), Minnesota (22), Mississippi (0), Missouri (2), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), Nevada (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (0), New Mexico (5), New York (1), North Carolina (0), North Dakota (2), Ohio (0), Oklahoma (0), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (1), Rhode Island (0), South Carolina (0), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (0), Texas (5), Utah (0) Vermont (2), Virginia (1), Washington (1), West Virginia (0), Wisconsin (7), Wyoming (1)

Meanwhile, in the metro area, the outer suburban counties have higher case rates than the more heavily-populated inner metro counties of Hennepin and Ramsey. 

  • Scott County - 93 cases per 100K
  • Carver - 93
  • Anoka - 79
  • Washington - 75
  • Dakota - 69
  • Hennepin - 59
  • Ramsey - 56

The comparatively low case rate in Hennepin and Ramsey – and to a lesser extent the suburban counties – compared to Greater Minnesota does suggest that vaccination rates are playing a significant role in the 

That said, there are numerous reasons that contribute to COVID case rates, such as population density, adherence to mitigation measures, and transient population to name but a few.

As such, there are outliers within the figures. For example, Goodhue County has a 72% vaccination rate among those aged 12+ but one of the worst case rates in the U.S., whereas Jackson County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Minnesota and is currently reporting 32 cases per 100,000 people. 

Related: Since delta arrived, COVID deaths have mostly happened in less-vaccinated Greater Minnesota

The impact of vaccination since the onset of the delta variant can be more comprehensively seen in death figures – with COVID-19 vaccines more effective at preventing death and hospitalizations than preventing infection.

Bring Me The News reported earlier this week that since the start of the summer, a disproportionate number of deaths from COVID-19 have come from Greater Minnesota compared to the 7-county Twin Cities metro, where vaccination take up has been higher.

Earlier this week, Gov. Tim Walz announced that the Department of Defense is sending two medical teams of 22 personnel each to work at St. Cloud Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center. They will help ease the burden that Minnesota doctors and nurses have been carrying for the past 20 months. 

As of Thursday morning, there were only 37 staffed ICU beds available in Minnesota. None were open in the central region and just seven were ready for new patients in the entire metro region. 

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