21 counties in Minnesota include moderate and high risks of COVID-19

Four counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are among the 21 in Minnesota considered at least at moderate risk of COVID-19 according to local infection and hospitalization rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified Hennepin, Carver, Scott and Washington counties as moderately at risk, while wearing a face mask was recommended in Pennington County, northwestern Minnesota. due to its high risk.

The latest CDC risk data coincides with the sewage sampling in Minnesota that shows more evidence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. St. John’s Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Center Paul reported on Friday a 21% increase in average viral load in wastewater sampled over the past week.

State leaders remained hopeful, however, because hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have not increased at the same rate. While 297 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota on Thursday, only 24 needed intensive care.

Gov. Tim Walz said the progress of vaccination has likely reduced the rate of serious hospitalizations and brought the Minnesota COVID-19 mortality rate to the lowest level of the pandemic. COVID-19 numbers have been the lowest in Minnesota over the past two summers, he added.

“If this is done on its own, we should see a calm here over the summer,” Walz said Wednesday before receiving his second booster vaccine against COVID-19. “We will probably see peaks in the southern states very early in the summer months when they move in, and then our preparations are for [increased viral activity in] October “.

Not everyone was so optimistic. New, faster-spreading variants of the coronavirus could emerge and alter any apparent seasonal pattern, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s impossible to predict what will happen,” he said.

A rapidly spreading BA.2 coronavirus subvariant accounted for 97% of the viral material found in the Twin Cities wastewater samples over the past week. About one-fifth of BA.2 viral material involved an even faster form of spread called BA.2.12.1, which has led to high COVID-19 activity in the northeastern United States.

Wastewater sampling has proven over time to be a faster indicator of COVID-19 trends, revealing the start and peak of this winter’s pandemic wave of omicrons one more week or so. less before the number of infections changed.

Sewage and infection numbers are synchronized right now. The viral load on Twin Cities wastewater has been increasing, but it is four times lower than at the peak of the omicron wave. The seven-day average of new infections in Minnesota has risen from 374 per day in the week ending March 20 to nearly 1,600 per day, but the rate was 13,000 per day in mid-January.

Minnesota reported four more deaths on Friday from COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic number to 12,525. More than 80 percent of the deaths were in the elderly, but Friday’s report included a 45- to 49-year-old Ramsey County resident.

Walz encouraged people to protect themselves with vaccines, which they have shown in studies that reduce hospitalizations for COVID-19 and serious illnesses even in people who have already been infected. Nearly 1.5 million people in Minnesota have tested positive for coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but federal estimates indicate that up to 3.3 million people in the state have been infected. .

Minnesota reported Friday that 3.9 million people in Minnesota have received at least one first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but that only 2.5 million are up to date, meaning they have completed the initial series of vaccines and have received reinforcements when recommended. Another 250,000 Minnesota residents have received second reinforcements, which the CDC approved to maintain immunity in people 50 years of age or older, with a weakened immune system, or have only received the less effective Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The CDC’s weekly risk designations are based on local rates of infection and hospitalization, and are primarily designed to warn communities when their hospitals may be at risk of being overloaded with COVID-19. The measure has shown volatility; Southeast Olmsted and Wabasha counties were listed as high risk last week, but were downgraded this week.

The city of Minneapolis issued a recommendation to wear a public inner mask a week ago pending an increase in the number of infections and a high-risk CDC designation at some point for Hennepin County. The rate of people always wearing masks in Hennepin has risen slightly over the past week to 39%, while the statewide rate is 28%, according to COVIDcast poll data.

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