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Despite averaging more than 10,000 newly reported cases of COVID-19 every day over the past week, Minnesota actually ranks 42nd of 50 states in terms of cases per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times

At 167 cases per 100,000 people, Minnesota's omicron surge marks a statewide high point for the entire pandemic, but it is still far from the shocking rates seen in states that began their omicron surges earlier. New York is at 363 cases per 100,000 residents, while fellow northeastern states Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island are also over the 300 mark. 

Keep in mind that Minnesota and Michigan were leading the country in case rates during the delta spike in mid-November, and that was when Minnesota was at 75 cases per 100,000 residents. 

According to the New York Times, these are the 25 highest case rates (per 100,000 people) in Minnesota. All but five of the top 25 are centered around southeast Minnesota, the Twin Cities metro area and the St. Cloud area. 

  1. Olmsted County: 260
  2. Mower County: 228
  3. Winona County: 215
  4. Stearns County: 197
  5. Hennepin County: 186
  6. Washington County: 180
  7. Benton County: 180
  8. Ramsey County: 178
  9. Dakota County: 176
  10. Scott County: 163
  11. Anoka County: 163
  12. Clay County: 159
  13. Dodge County: 159
  14. Stevens County: 154
  15. Freeborn County: 152
  16. Rice County: 147
  17. Goodhue County: 146
  18. Sherburne County: 141
  19. Big Stone County: 140
  20. Carver County: 140
  21. Houston County: 134
  22. Wabasha County: 124
  23. Todd County: 123
  24. Douglas County: 123
  25. Kandiyohi County: 121

You can find similar case rates (through Jan. 11) on this Mayo Clinic tracker

Based on the expectations for Minnesota health officials, the numbers in Minnesota will only go up as January progresses. As was detailed in our story Wednesday, hospitals are preparing rough days ahead with the inevitable blend of rising COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers who are out sick. 

It's been the case during previous variant spikes in Minnesota – notably alpha and delta – that cases started spiking in and around Olmsted County and the Twin Cities early on in the surge, before spreading to greater Minnesota.

The risk particularly in greater Minnesota is that vaccination rates are lower. Even though cases are currently at their highest in the Twin Cities and southeast Minnesotan, the death rates over the past seven days are highest in more rural counties with lower vaccination rates.

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"We are going to be in some really, really constrained circumstances in these next few weeks," said Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.

"We are hopeful that it's a rapid rise and rapid decline in terms of number of cases. But these next few weeks are going to be something that we've not seen before in Minnesota, ever, in most of our entire careers – this degree of capacity challenge in our healthcare system."

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