ROCHESTER, Minn. — After days of plummeting cases and fatalities, COVID-19 reasserted itself in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 17, as the state Department of Health reported an additional 419 cases and 12 deaths from the virus.
Noteworthy jumps include Olmsted County, which added 29 cases in a single day, and Mower County, which added 73 cases.
As of last week, Mower County had the second-highest per-capita rate of COVID-19 in the state, with an incidence rate of 1,545 cases per 100,000, putting it second only to Nobles County, home to an outbreak last month at the JBS pork plant in Worthington.
Mower County is home to Hormel Foods in Austin. It has a population of just over 40,000 people, with 733 confirmed cases and two deaths from COVID-19 so far.
"Mower now has the second-highest incidence of cases in the state," said Minnesota Department of Health director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann. "We are working with Mower COunty public health and emergency management to provide community testing this weekend."
In response to the outbreak, the health department has planned a community testing initiative on Saturday and Sunday in Austin, and is anticipating 1,000 participants each day.
Ehresmann believed the outbreak in Mower County is unique as it was not limited to a single employer.
"In this case we are seeing that there's been activity in the community as well as related to a couple of large employers in the area," Ehresmann said. Testing by local health officials along with Mayo Clinic have driven the surveillance.
"Recognizing that there is both workplace potential exposure and activity in the community," Ehresmann said, "the testing is being expanded."
Health officials offered cautious enthusiasm for the lack of a surge now that the first protests in the state are three weeks in the past -- the time frame required to see a spike following new exposure.
"It's encouraging to us that the patterns we've been seeing are still holding," said state Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. "We do think it's still early to draw definitive conclusions."
"We're delighted we're not seeing a huge increase of cases," Ehresmann said. "We are very pleased and grateful for the low positivity we're seeing and the plateauing and, in some cases, reductions in numbers. That said, we want to be cautious. We want a little more positive data before we do the happy dance completely."
The state shattered its one-day reported testing record on Wednesday, posting nearly 20,000 tests in a single day. The 19,573 tests reported include a subset of tests that were delayed on Monday, however, because of a computer error.
Malcolm said the new positive cases nonetheless "did represent a continuation of the pattern we're seeing of a gradual decline in positive test results."
Malcolm said that the state tested almost 2,000 people at four community testing sites Tuesday, expected 2,800 more Wednesday and that the asymptomatic testing project has returned "around a 1% positive testing rate."
A low case positivity rate is one of the metrics the state tracks closely as it measures the spread of the virus in state, in order to determine its ability to "turn up the dials" toward fewer restrictions on business and social activity.
The state's 19 deaths were clustered in the Twin Cities metro area, with one death reported each in Anoka and Dakota counties, three in Hennepin County and seven in Ramsey County. Ten of 12 deaths occured in long-term care. The state now reports 1,325 deaths from COVID-19.
Intensive care unit use declined by four beds to 181, marking the seventh day in a row of either no change or declines in need for COVID-19 ICU care. Non-ICU hospitalization also declined to 170 beds, another important metric in the state's determination of its COVID-19 capacity.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.