Minnesota moves daily COVID statistics report to a weekly schedule

Nearly 28 months after the coronavirus arrived in Minnesota, state health officials announced Tuesday that they would halt daily coverage of the pandemic.

Beginning Thursday, the state will only release a weekly update with the latest numbers on new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as vaccination rates and other measures.

Health officials are also revamping how the data is presented with a new website designed to make it easier to find and understand measures of the outbreak.

Kathy Como-Sabetti, a state epidemiologist, said weekly trends convey risk in specific regions of the state better than individual days of data.

“One day’s data doesn’t show a trend,” she said. “That’s when the decision-making should be made about where we are over the course of a week or two.”

Andrea Ahneman, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the changes are consistent with how officials are reporting other outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as measles or influenza. She noted that the department could potentially return to a daily reporting schedule if pandemic conditions worsen.

Minnesota has been regularly reporting COVID-19 outbreak statistics since March 2020. Initially, they were reported every day, but the department stopped its weekend updates last summer.

The types of data provided have changed from time to time. For example, the state no longer reports test positive rates because so many people are now taking tests at home, the results of which are not recorded by the state.

8 NEW DEATHS

The 3,362 new infections reported over the past weekend have pushed the total number of coronavirus infections to over 1.55 million since the outbreak began. But simple case numbers don’t provide the same details about the pandemic as they used to.

Instead, state officials are relying on case numbers, which now sit at around 24 new infections per 100,000 people per week. That is less than in the previous weeks, but well above the high-risk threshold of the health department.

In contrast, the weekly per capita rate for hospitalizations recently fell below the country’s high-risk threshold to around 7.4 new admissions per 100,000 people. There are currently 379 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including 29 in intensive care.

The death rate continues to fluctuate and has currently been around six a day for the past week. Since the pandemic began, eight more deaths were reported Tuesday, totaling 12,792.

Public health authorities use all of these measures when setting guidelines to contain the spread of the coronavirus. They are also increasingly relying on the presence of coronavirus genetic material in the sewage.

On Friday, the Metropolitan Council reported a slight increase in coronavirus genetic material in Twin Cities wastewater. Almost all of it was the highly contagious Omicron variant or its various related strains.

Finally, state health officials will continue to monitor vaccination rates and encourage everyone to get their initial vaccinations and recommended booster shots. Young children have just become vaccine-eligible, and about 68 percent of the state’s total population has completed at least their first vaccination course.

However, the state also announced Tuesday that some of its vaccine distribution efforts are ending this week. The health department is no longer scheduling public-requested community vaccination events, and the Metro Transit vaccination bus will be grounded on Thursday.

The department said in relation to vaccination that it is “moving towards a more sustainable model of community service”.

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