7-13-2020 COVID-19 Update from the MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 7-13-2020
On Monday, July 13, the Minnesota Department of Health held a conference call to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19.
This is a summary of that call.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Worldwide, there are now 12.9 million cases of COVID-19 and 569,000 deaths
- In the U.S. there have been 3.3 million cases and 135,000 deaths
- In Minnesota, 499 additional laboratory-confirmed cases since yesterday, for a total of 42,772 cases.
- The number of new cases grew substantially over the last few days and the weekend.
- The median age of Minnesota cases is now at 37.6 years (continues to decrease)
- 1,504 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19, two additional deaths reported
- Currently 247 patients in the hospital and 114 in intensive care.
- On the testing front, MN has increased testing substantially — average of about 14,000 tests per day last week.
- The seven-day rolling average of positivity for our tests is 4.7 percent, this is an increase of 7 tenths of a percent from the week prior.
- Over the last week, we saw a 12.8 percent total increase in number of tests performed and a 10.9 percent increase in new cases over that same time period.
- Case growth and its correlation to environmental changes: when Gov. Walz turned the dial in June to allow for limited reopening of bars and restaurants, it came with specific protective guidance to help the state strike the right balance between reopening and encouraging more community interaction and more well-being, as well as the importance of economic activity. But the state wanted to do that without significantly increasing disease spread.
- The restaurants and bars’ guidance is specific and available on the MDH website. As a reminder, businesses offering food and beverages, particularly alcoholic beverages, or tobacco products for on-premise consumption can provide indoor and outdoor services, but that is only if they adhere to set of requirements. And those requirements include occupancy of indoor space to not exceed 50 percent of the normal fire code capacity with a distance of 6-feet maintained between patrons and between tables, with a maximum of 250 people in a single, self-contained space. For most establishments, that 50 percent occupancy with 6-feet of social distancing produces a much smaller number. But in a few large venues, there’s an absolute upper limit of 250 people.
- Occupancy of any outdoor space must also ensure that the number of customers at any one time is limited to the number for whom physical distancing of 6 feet can be maintained between tables. And that is not to exceed 250 people as well.
- In both settings, workers and customers should follow face covering requirements.
- We’ve said all along that the success of reopening depends on Minnesotans doing their part to follow the health guidance and move the state in the right direction.
- The majority of business establishments are doing the right thing. The bottom line is we need businesses to follow these guidelines and patrons to respect these guidelines.
- The MDH has been talking to businesses about enforcement and how that enforcement is meant to roll out.
- If the MDH receives a complaint about a bar or restaurant not following guidance, an on-site inspection will happen. If a violation is observed, the facility is then reminded of what to do. Then a follow-up inspection will happen the next day to make sure the needed changes were made. If another violation is observed, further enforcement is possible.
- For consumers, people can and do call the department of public safety to report violations. There’s also an online complaint form. The phone number: 651-201-4500.
MDH Infectious Diseases Director Kris Ehresmann
- MDH continues to evaluate the scientific data related to COVID and look at what new studies are coming out. Just in the last week there’s studies that suggest that an individual’s infectiousness may peak in the pre-symptomatic period. The MDH is looking at who someone may have exposed in the two days prior to the onset of their symptoms.
- That said, we want to reinforce the important of social distancing and masking. People could be at the peak of their infection when they’re not even aware that they have symptoms.
- In situations where people social distance, the risk of transmission is much less.
Additional notes from the meeting:
- Malcolm says test positivity shows the true picture of the amount of disease in the community. What the MDH looks at is the 7-day rolling average of the percent of tests that come back positive. And what they’re really looking for is 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 percent (MN is now at 4.7 percent), that is a really concerning level of test positivity. Five percent is thought to be a marker… if it goes above that, you could be entering a phase where there’s more rapid spread of the disease.
- Malcolm says young people going to bars and interacting more may be driving the uptick. That hasn’t been a big surprise, but the degree of the shift has been a surprise. The spread to higher risk groups is something that concerns the MDH from these most recent cases among young people.
- A reporter asked a question about supply chain issues as demand grows elsewhere. Malcolm says health systems are now “less confident” in the supply chain.
- A reporter asked a question about cases of MISC (multi inflammatory system). MDH has seen cases of that syndrome. The last number she saw was 13. The number of cases of COVID in children has also increased.
- A reporter asked a question about fall sports in school districts and whether a decision has been made on that. The MDH says there hasn’t been a change since they released guidance information in mid to late June. When it comes to high school activities, the MN State High School League will make a decision closer to the beginning of the season.
- Malcolm says that what’s happening in other states is concerning to those in public health. She says that MN has taken a measured approach to reopening. But we definitely are mindful of the speed with which those trajectories can change. We are tracking these indicators carefully. Minnesota’s positivity rate was double and even triple where it is now in April and May. MN has seen a deterioration over the last couple weeks, but we’re still in a better position than in the spring. Malcolm admits we’re testing a broader swath of the population now than we were then. We’re also in a different place now, considering that we were in a shelter in place that wasn’t lifted until May 18.
- A reporter asked a question about ways to mitigate spread from other parts of the U.S. Malcolm said it would be difficult to do that. Some states have imposed quarantine restrictions on people traveling to their state from some of the known hotspots. Minnesota has not closely evaluated that option here, but that’s one thing we could look at in the future if it’s necessary.
- Malcolm received a question about “herd immunity,” in which we all need to be exposed to COVID-19. Malcolm says that comes at a high cost that potentially overruns health care capability to provide care to the subset of the people who get very serious disease. So willfully accelerating the spread has some negative consequences. Ehresmann says “herd immunity” is the concept that as more and more people in the population have immunity, it reduces the chance that you’re going to see spread. In a way, it protects everyone. And the way that you get herd immunity is either people have had the disease and get immunity or because of a vaccine. So ultimately we will want to have high levels of herd immunity when a vaccine is available, but if we’re looking at increasing disease spread to get our herd immunity up, it does have high risk. The goal of herd immunity is to make sure you have a high enough immunity in your population to protect those people who are vulnerable, who cannot be vaccinated, who cannot be protected. We want to achieve herd immunity, but we want to do so in a manner that offers protection we are hoping to gain to those most vulnerable in the population. We don’t want to just accelerate transmission to sort of hurry up and gain herd immunity because it will have untoward consequences.
- Ehresmann says we will likely have more hospitalizations as cases in young people accelerate. Those hospitalizations may not necessarily be with young people.
- The MDH’s stance on mandating the wearing of masks — the governor has been interested in the added value that a statewide mandate might bring. The governor wants people to adopt this as a best practice. The MDH is pulling data together and sending that to the governor so he can make an informed decision.
- A reporter asked a question about contact tracing — Ehresmann says oftentimes people get results from their health care provider and it takes a couple of days to get to the MDH, and then it’ll take a day or so for the MDH to reach out to them for contact tracing. The MDH does not have any problem with backlogs.