Minnesota virus cases up; other metrics level

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota reported another 650 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Monday, continuing a swing upward in the rolling average even as hospitalizations and deaths have remained lower than prior levels.

The state reported two deaths, both people age 70 or older and both in assisted living. Hospitalizations dipped slightly overall but ticked upward in cases needing intensive care.

The new numbers came just days after Gov. Tim Walz’s statewide mask mandate kicked in. Health officials say they expect masks to help stem the spread of the virus, but say it will take some weeks before a benefit is seen.

Data maintained by Johns Hopkins researches show the state’s rolling average number of daily new cases has risen by nearly 20 percent. The state ranks 30th in new cases per capita.

The Star Tribune reported state health officials are watching closely for the monthlong increase in COVID-19 cases to result in more hospitalizations and deaths — a pattern that has happened in Southern and Western states.

So far, hospitalizations have increased only slightly from a low this month of 231 on July 10 to 257 on Monday. The hospitalization total on Monday included 126 people with COVID-19 in intensive care, though, the highest such number since July 5. That ICU number had been trending downward for much of July amid improved airway management and other care techniques for patients with COVID-19, along with new drug therapies.

The state’s next big move on the virus is expected Thursday, when Walz will announce guidance on schools reopening this fall. The governor has suggested in recent days that the guidance will be flexible for schools to offer a mix of distance and online learning and a mixture of both.