Minnesota has avoided a drop in COVID, but flu and RSV remain

Minnesota has avoided a drop in COVID, but flu and RSV remain

With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths again largely stable in this week’s data — and with the weather clearly telling us we’re now well into winter — it’s safe to say that Minnesota has avoided the decline the state experienced over the past two years .

However, the country is far from avoiding the rise of all respiratory diseases. Minnesota Department of Health reports 243 flu hospitalizations and 195 school outbreaks in the past week. Both are significantly higher than the near-zero levels reported for this time in the past four to five flu seasons, meaning this year’s spike in cases is starting much earlier than in previous years.

In the same report, the MDH stated that there were about 180 hospitalizations in each of the last three weeks due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), of which about two-thirds were babies.

So how do we protect ourselves at Thanksgiving gatherings? U the latest podcast from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy epidemiologist Michael Osterholm suggests:

  • Make sure you’re up to date on your COVID-19 and flu shots. He noted that the latest reports seem to show that the new bivalent COVID booster is effective, even against some of the newer strains.

  • Wear an N-95 mask in public areas.

  • Monitor health before gathering and avoid gathering if you have been exposed in the past few days or if you have symptoms.

  • Get tested for COVID-19 right before the gathering (by the way, the state again offers four free tests for COVID-19, and ordering online takes only two minutes).

  • If you end up with COVID, ask about Paxlovide treatment as soon as possible — even if your symptoms are mild. New research suggests that in addition to reducing the risk of hospitalization and death, Paxlovid appears to reduce the risk of long-term COVID.

And now for the latest data…

The number of cases and hospitalizations is still relatively small, but the number of intensive care admissions and deaths is increasing

The number of officially reported cases of COVID-19 remains at the lower plateau established back in October. The most recent complete seven-day average of newly identified cases, as of November 10, is 737 cases statewide. While COVID-19 testing regimes have definitely changed over time, the seven-day average on the same date in 2020 was 6,827 and in 2021 was 4,088.

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The number of daily deaths from COVID-19 in October and November 2022 (green line) is well below the numbers reported at the same time in 2020 (yellow line) and 2021 (blue line).

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

The number of new daily hospital admissions due to COVID-19 is increasing slightly more than cases, but overall remains lower than in the summer months. Since September, the state has averaged 64 admissions a day, compared to about 90 a day from June to August of this year.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are a more comparable indicator than cases during the pandemic, but they show a similar pattern: hospitalizations are now much lower than we saw in the previous two downturns, and they don’t appear to be increasing. For example, the seven-day average number of hospital admissions on November 10 is 65 per day. On the same date in 2020, the average was 211, and in 2021, it was 147.

A footnote to this seemingly good news appears in the charts below. When we break down the number of ICU admissions, we see another spike at the end of the last week. Since this doesn’t coincide with an increase in non-ICU hospitalizations, it may just be momentum – but we’ll certainly be watching this trend.

COVID Hospitalizations in MN

The number of new daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 in November 2022 (green line) is significantly below the number reported in November 2020 (yellow line) and 2021 (blue line).

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

The Department of Health reports 13,610 lives lost in Minnesota to COVID-19, including 2,744 so far this year. The processing of data on the cause of death takes longer, so the latest company data we have dates back to the end of October. In that time, we’ve seen average daily COVID-19 deaths rise to 8.1, up from 5.6 during the first three weeks of October.

Similar to the recent increase in ICU admissions noted above, the increase in deaths does not appear to correlate with continued change in hospitalizations, so a further increase would be surprising. However, we will continue to monitor this data.

While every death is a tragedy for the friends and family of those we lose, as a country we can take solace in the fact that our death rate from COVID-19 is now much lower than it was at this time two years ago. pandemic. In late October 2020 and 2021, we averaged nearly 20 deaths from COVID-19 per day, double the number we have now.

Deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota

The number of daily deaths from COVID-19 in October and November 2022 (green line) is well below the numbers reported at the same time in 2020 (yellow line) and 2021 (blue line).

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Wastewater: Increases in northern and central Minnesota and decreases in the southeastern part of the state; not much has changed according to the latest Metro data

The latest analysis of wastewater in the country, from Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota Genome Center, shows a seven percent decrease in the viral load entering the Twin Cities Metro powerhouse for the week ending Nov. 14 compared to the previous week. According to the Metropolitan Council, “the average weekly load over the past nine weeks (September 13 to November 14) did not vary much, remaining within 20 percent of the average for that period.”

The burden of COVID in Twin Cities metro wastewater

The Twin Cities’ sewage covid load has risen slightly but not changed much over the past nine weeks, according to the Metropolitan Council.

David Montgomery

Regarding the COVID variants, the Metropolitan Council reports “BA.5 accounted for 91 percent of the viral RNA that entered the Metro, and BA.4 and BA.2 represented two percent and seven percent, respectively, of the total viral RNA load. In an email communication with the Metropolitan Council, they note that “many of the mutations we track occur in more than one of the currently circulating sub-lineages, so they do not uniquely identify individual sub-lineages” and thus “we cannot currently quantify individual BAs. 5 substrates using our targeted mutation approach.”

The Minnesota Department of Health notes, however, that “in the last two-week period (October 23 to November 6), we are finally starting to see the increase in BQ.1 and BQ.1 sublines that the rest of the country has already experienced. Although BA.5 continues to be identified in the majority of cases, BQ.1 and its substrates increased to 14 percent of sequenced clinical samples in our most recent time period.”

Latest data from the University of Minnesota SARS-CoV2 wastewater surveillance study, which tracks data from seven regions through Nov. 6, shows a general increase in the level of COVID-19 in the north and central parts of the state, as well as in south-central Minnesota, over the previous month and week. Several regions experienced reductions, but the Southeast was the only region to experience monthly and weekly reductions in COVID-19 wastewater levels, both reductions were relatively modest.

Data for the week ending November 6 shows a 22 percent decrease in the level of COVID-19 wastewater in the Northeast region compared to the previous month, but the Northeast recorded a 66 percent increase compared to the previous week. This is the biggest weekly increase in this update, followed by a 34 percent increase in the Northwest. The opposite trend has occurred in the southwest region, which has recently seen large increases, in some cases over 100 percent. The Southwest recorded a monthly increase of 73 percent, but a decrease of 11 percent compared to the previous week. This decrease marks the first decrease in the Southwest in three weeks; the latest declines for the region came in data for the week ending Oct. 16.

Levels of COVID-19 wastewater in the Twin Cities metro area (the study’s largest region, including 13 facilities serving 2.8 million Minnesotans) show continued, albeit gradual, increases. Note that this study’s data goes back to November 6, but the Metro wastewater data, mentioned above, is more recent.

CDC: Keep steady in a good place, but not a clean one

In Minnesota, only Rice County was rated as high risk by the CDC’s most recent “community level” ratings. As of Oct. 13, the number of Minnesota counties rated as high-risk was between zero and two, and if you remove Oct. 6, which had five high-risk counties, this trend reverses through Sept. 8. The number of counties rated medium risk increased to 18 from 11 last week. High and medium risk counties are mostly in the south and central parts of the state, with a few in the northwest. Hospital admissions are also highest in southwest Minnesota.

Transmission of COVID-19, however, has decreased somewhat this week, according to the CDC. Seventeen counties exceed the threshold for high transmission of COVID-19 of at least 100 cases per 100,000, down from 33 counties last week. Pope County had 200 or more cases per 100,000 in the last update, and Grant County registered more than 400 cases per 100,000. While this is good news, 54 counties are registering between 50 and 99 cases per 100,000, the highest number of counties since at least last summer.

Minnesota’s vaccination rate remains low—but exceeds most of the nation

This is reported by the Minnesota Department of Health only 17 percent of Minnesotans are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Vaccination rates are highest among people over 65, as that group is prioritized due to a higher risk of death from COVID-19.

MN COVID vaccination rates by age

Vaccination rates against COVID-19 are highest among people over the age of 65.

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

While those vaccination rates may sound low, the rates are even lower in other parts of the country. As we report in our recent update on the Inoculation Nation projectMinnesota has the seventh highest rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country.

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