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The City of Minneapolis is recommending people wear face masks indoors following a rise in COVID-19 cases, while two Minnesota counties are once again experiencing "high" transmissions of the virus.

The Minneapolis Health Department issued a statement Thursday evening saying that it "strongly recommends everyone – vaccinated or not – wear masks in indoor public settings and businesses."

The city says the 7-day new case rate in Minneapolis has risen by 340% since mid-March, from 51 cases per 100,000 to 227.

"That puts us in the high community transmission category," the city says. "We’ve also seen a more than two-fold increase in our seven-day hospitalization rate since mid-March from 1.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people to 4.8 hospitalizations, which is above the caution threshold."

The recommendation comes a little over two months after Mayor Jacob Frey lifted the city's face mask mandate, since when there has been a rise in cases driven by the BA.2 strain of the omicron COVID variant.

Federal dashboards also show that there are now two counties in Minnesota that have passed the threshold for "high" COVID community levels: Olmsted and Wabasha.

It has been the case during some of the previous waves of the virus that cases have risen first in the southeast of Minnesota, followed by the Twin Cities metro, and then the rest of Greater Minnesota.

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Olmsted County is also recommending people wear masks indoors, get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster if eligible, and test if they have COVID symptoms.

Cases and hospitalizations have been rising, albeit not at the speed of the exponential growth rates seen during the spike in late 2021 and early 2022 associated with the original strain of the omicron variant.

Immunity levels generated by recent infection with omicron may be playing a role in that, with the Minnesota Department of Health saying this week that 60% of Minnesotans have had COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic.

Hospitalizations have also been ticking up though ICU rates have not followed at the same rate. Hospitalization figures tend to lag a couple weeks behind case rises, however.

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