Skip to main content

Minnesota health officials: 'We're not done with COVID yet'

The state has seen less activity in recent weeks, but health officials don't think what they prepared for was overkill.

Balancing the pros and cons of shutting down or limiting a bulk of the state's economy in response to the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic may be debated forever, but Minnesota heath officials made clear Wednesday that while the decisions they made took a toll on society, it definitely saved lives. 

"When prevention works, folks tend to not appreciate the value of having done it," said Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm. 

Malcolm's answer was in response to a question about Minnesota not yet coming close to nearing ICU bed capacity, nor the surge capacity created at temporary care facilities that were planned for throughout the state. 

Health officials have long estimated that the peak of the current wave of the pandemic would arrive sometime between now and early August, though the unpredictability of the virus' behavior has made it nearly impossible to say for certain what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. 

"I think it's too early to say have we peaked and therefore we overshot our preparation. We don't know that we peaked. It's highly possible that we could see the pattern shift again and the cases continue to grow, and even if we are at a sustained plateau for a while, or if cases come down ... that doesn't mean that we won't see a resurgence in the fall and winter," said Malcolm. 

"In fact, that's a very possible scenario that we have to be prepared for." 

A worst-case scenario feared by the University of Minnesota's Dr. Michael Osterholm is the disease falling off during the summer only to come back with vengeance in the fall and winter, similar to the behavior of the 1918 influenza pandemic. 

"This would be the worst thing that could happen," Osterholm said in an interview with WCCO Radio in late May. "Given previous influenza pandemics, and this not an influenza virus so we don't know for certain it will act like that, but if it did, by far the second wave was the worst one of each of the pandemics."

He said a second wave in late summer or early fall that lasts 3-4 months "could make everything we've experienced so far seem mild." 

Regardless of the severity of any future ballooning of the outbreak, the pandemic has been expected to come in waves until herd immunity is achieved or a widely available vaccine is created. 

"There's no question that the prep has been important and useful," explained Malcolm. "When and how we end up deploying it is yet to be seen, but we will be far better prepared for what comes next."

Health officials continue to have a watchful eye on the state's hospital bed capacity, namely the beds available in intensive care units. As of the June 10, the statewide ICU capacity is 2,199 beds, 1,075 of which are currently in use. But only 193 of the in-use ICU beds are COVID-19 patients. 

All in all, the first wave of the outbreak has not pushed all Minnesota hospitals to the brink of being filled, though some in the Twin Cities have had to utilize surge capacity. 

But what seems like overkill now may be a blessing of sorts in the future, when Minnesota is dealing with both COVID-19 and an annual influenza outbreak. 

"We had our first case in March, then we moved quickly to a stay-at-home order which basically eliminated our influenza activity," Kris Ehresmann of the MDH said of the recent months with COVID-19. "Coming into the fall, we're going to really be pushing for influenza vaccination, but we'll likely have concurrent COVID and influenza which will push greater demand on our healthcare." 

"We're not done with COVID yet," Ehresmann added. 

Next Up

Williams Uptown Pub

Williams Uptown Pub & Peanut Bar closes indefinitely after shooting

Reports say police have arrested two suspects in the incident.

Alex Rodríguez

A-Rod wears a Packers hat, Minnesotans lose their minds

The Timberwolves co-owner didn't endear himself to his fan base on Saturday night.

Flickr - Minneapolis police squad - Chad Davis

Police: Man shoots into crowd at funeral reception in Minneapolis

The shooting happened at a reception following a funeral on Saturday afternoon.

Screen Shot 2022-01-23 at 8.37.27 AM

Watch: Jimmy Garoppolo says 'F*** the Packers' after playoff win

The 49ers quarterback congratulated Robbie Gould in spectacular fashion.

Aaron Rodgers

America dunks on Aaron Rodgers after loss to 49ers

The Packers quarterback was destroyed on social media on Saturday night.

Marcus Foligno

Foligno's OT winner gives Wild fans a happy Hockey Day

A slow start gave way to the Wild's fifth win in the past six games.


Winter weather advisory issued as Saturday snow arrives

Not huge totals expected, but any snow will likely impact travel.


Report: Ryan Poles is Vikings' 'top choice' for general manager

Poles was one of two finalists revealed on Friday.

Payton Willis

Willis carries shorthanded Gophers to beat Rutgers

The senior scored a career-high 32 points to end a four-game losing streak.


coronavirus, ICU, COVID-19

MN health officials say increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations 'likely'

Younger people have been getting infected, meaning they could transmit it to older, more vulnerable people.

coronavirus, ICU, COVID-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, September 24

Three more deaths are included, but the main focus of the report is a new method for reporting hospitalizations.

covid-19, coronavirus

Health officials: Minnesota hospitals experiencing a 'capacity crisis'

Malcolm called the current capacity crisis for pediatric cases "quite extraordinary."

covid-19, coronavirus, ICU

10 stories about the escalating COVID-19 crisis in Minnesota

These stories are written by the people on the front lines.

coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, covid-19

Deaths from COVID-19 rise again in Wednesday's update

Twenty-nine more people have died in Minnesota.

coronavirus, ICU, COVID-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, August 26

The death toll since the start of the pandemic is nearing 1,800.

coronavirus, ICU, COVID-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Saturday, July 25

Minnesota has surpassed 50,000 cases since March 6.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, November 2

There are now 774 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Minnesota.