Minnesota health officials say increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is 'likely'

Younger people have been getting infected, meaning they could transmit it to older, more vulnerable people.
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Health officials in Minnesota are expecting the recent rise in COVID-19 cases will ultimately result in hospitals adding more patients to beds for care. 

Speaking Monday during a media briefing, Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said a "ripple effect" of younger people getting infected will undoubtedly lead to more vulnerable people fall ill, some of them winding up in the hospital. 

"We are likely going to see increases in our hospitalizations because of the ripple effect of our cases in our younger population," said Ehresmann. "We will likely see additional illness in other sectors and ages of the population."

Minnesota has seen an upward trend in the positive test rate over the past week, though a good amount of the new cases involve younger patients whom Ehresmann and MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm say are "less likely to have more severe consequences of the disease." 

Malcolm said there is concern for "how the disease gets spread by them, unwittingly, to others in high-risk groups." She suspects that younger people carrying the disease could be the culprits for second and third generation transmission in the "coming weeks." 

Minnesota's hospitals are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients right now, as the number of coronavirus patients through Sunday afternoon in the hospital totaled 247, with 114 of the patients receiving treatment in the ICU. Those are on par with numbers dating back to mid-to-late April, just prior to a steady increase that saw as many as 606 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in late May. 

Minnesota's maximum number of ICU beds is 2,248. Forty-eight percent of those are occupied, 114 of them by people infected with COVID-19. 

Closely watching the positive test rate

The past week in Minnesota saw cases grow, including more than 1,500 new cases reported over the weekend. But high numbers of cases can be the result of more testing, so the key metric to consider is the positive test rate. Minnesota's positive test rate is also rising, just on Sunday joining 34 other states that had a 7-day rolling average above the World Health Organization's (WHO) 5 percent threshold, though that number has since dipped on Monday to 4.71 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Here's how Minnesota's daily positive test rates for the past eight days of reporting have transpired: 

  • Monday: 7.6%
  • Tuesday: 10.2%
  • Wednesday: 5.9%
  • Thursday: 4.6%
  • Friday: 2.96%
  • Saturday: 5.00%
  • Sunday: 5.5%
  • Monday: 3.5%

Malcolm said the percent positive is a "particularly good metric" to see how quickly the disease is spreading. "If that indicator increases by more than 5 percent five days in a row, that's a concern. And if the total test positivity rate exceeds 15%, that is a really concerning level of test positivity," she said. 

She added: "If you go above 5% it indicates that you may be heading back into a phase of more rapid spread of the disease." 

Even tough Minnesota may be trending in the wrong direction, it's still nowhere near what the percent positive was during the spring. 

"Significantly better than we were. Our positivity rate in later April and the first half of May was double or even triple from where it is now," said Malcolm. "We have seen a deterioration in the last couple of weeks, but we're still in a much better position than we were in the spring." 

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