Minnesota COVID-19 Positivity Rate Reaches Record 15.6%
The COVID-19 positivity rate averaged over a seven-day period ending Dec. 30 has reached 15.6 percent in Minnesota, the highest on record. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) estimates that more than 90 percent of new COVID cases are attributed to the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“We are literally being flooded with these incoming lab reports,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
Malcolm says the state is struggling to keep up with test results and is adjusting staffing to meet the volume. She says the omicron variant is “circulating like wildfire.”
“It spreads much, much faster than even the highly contagious delta variant,” said Malcolm.
On Friday, the state posted 7,833 additional cases and 33 deaths on its website. Still, those numbers don’t tell the entire story as rapid at-home test results are not reported to MDH.
Health officials do say the omicron variant appears to cause less severe illness for fully vaccinated and boosted individuals. But Malcolm did raise concerns about the variant’s strain on health systems over the next two weeks and its disruptions on the workforce.
Fewer people are hospitalized with COVID than November 2020, when hospitals were strained and at full capacity. However, doctors have said the level of acuity in current patients is higher than doctors have ever seen. Health officials also say it’s no longer a bed issue, but a staff issue, calling the number of hospital workers out this week “unprecedented.”
COVID Impacts State’s Infectious Disease Leader
During a Minnesota Department of Health briefing Friday, the state’s top infectious disease expert, Kris Ehresmann, revealed that she developed COVID symptoms after a New Year’s Eve visit from her 89-year-old father.
Ehresmann’s father called her the next day saying he didn’t feel well.
“Dad you need to isolate and you need to get tested,” she remembered telling her father, who was fully vaccinated and boosted. Her dad later tested positive.
Ehresmann said she and her husband then developed symptoms. Other family members who had seen her dad also developed symptoms. Ehresmann says she hasn’t left her house since Sunday as she recovers. Like her dad, Ehresmann and the rest of her family are fully vaccinated and boosted.
“Thankfully, because of the vaccine, we all have been able to manage the illness with rest and care at home, including my elderly dad.”
Ehresmann said her dad looked well during the visit, but her dad later said “he thought it was just the beginning of a cold and wasn’t COVID.”
“So just a reminder, you can’t guess what you have,” said Ehresmann about her family’s story. “If you have any symptoms of feeling off, you really need to isolate.”
She added, “I told dad even it was a cold, I wouldn’t want to get that either.”