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Minnesota given 'uncontrolled spread' designation by COVID-19 Exit Strategy

The Minnesota Medical Association says it is very concerned.

Minnesota is now among 22 states with "uncontrolled spread" of the coronavirus, according to the COVID-19 Exit Strategy. 

The downgrade for Minnesota has caught the attention of the Minnesota Medical Association, whose communications director, Dan Hauser, issued a statement Friday saying the MMA is "extremely concerned" by the rating, noting that the COVID-19 Exit Strategy is an "expert-led, non-partisan resource." 

The uncontrolled spread designation is the worst of four ratings the COVID-19 Exit Strategy employs. It's based on numerous data points, including 14-day case averages, test positivity rates and cases per million residents. Here's how Minnesota is faring in three key measures, per the report: 

14-day COVID trend: 67.7% – This means Minnesota's last 14 days of positive cases based on a 7-day rolling average has increased by 67.7%.

New cases per million: 159 – This means Minnesota is averaging 159 new cases per 1 million residents over the past seven days. North Dakota (511), South Dakota (389) and Wisconsin (347) have the three highest cases per million residents in the country, while Iowa (274) ranks seventh. Minnesota checks in at 20th. 

Test positivity rate: 4.78% – This number is a 7-day rolling average that is calculated by dividing the number of positive tests by the completed tests. Here's a chart that shows you just how Minnesota has fared over the course of the pandemic. 

"We cannot overstate the severity of this virus and Minnesotans must recognize that the target of our frustration and outrage must be the virus, not the public health experts, clinicians and others working to stop it," said Hauser.

"We urge all Minnesotans to continue to practice good health. Do your part by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you're in any public space, stay six feet apart, wash your hands regularly, and limit gathering in groups."

While Minnesota's case count has been increasing, it's due in part to testing increases. Minnesota's test positivity rate is just below the 5% threshold state health officials say is a sign of more aggressive community spread, but it ranks 28th overall and is nowhere near neighboring states: South Dakota (23.8% positive), Wisconsin (17.6%) and Iowa (16.3%). 

Additionally, there is no data to show how many of the Minnesotans who test positive are asymptomatic or are experiencing mild, moderate or severe illness from the disease. 

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Nonetheless, Minnesota's rate of unknown community transmission – where a COVID-19 patient doesn't know how they got the virus – is now at 36%, above the 30% maximum the state wants. 

The COVID-19 Exit Strategy also lists what percentage of a state's ICU capacity is filled, and it says Minnesota's ICU capacity is 73% full. However, when cross-checking that data point, it does not match the Minnesota Department of Health, whose COVID-19 public resource page says 1,062 of a maximum 2,158 ICU beds in the state are occupied, which is 49.2%. 

To be clear, the COVID-19 Exit Strategy say it retrieves its ICU data from the CDC, though on Friday the CDC's report shows that 60.75 of Minnesota's ICU beds are occupied, and that number is said to be 95% accurate, according to the CDC. Either way, the 73% listed by the COVID-19 Exit Strategy is inaccurate. 

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