Minnesota coronavirus cases are growing faster than ever, thanks to the highly contagious omicron variant — and will almost certainly get much worse.
“The numbers are going to get pretty high here. It’s going to be a challenging few weeks,” Governor Tim Walz said Tuesday during a visit to a Maplewood respite care site, staffed by the National Guard, where patients can recuperate. and make room at overcrowded hospitals.
Unfortunately, the state of Minnesota’s current outbreak was overshadowed this week after health officials noted they were working through another backlog of testing reports. This time, about 135,000 coronavirus tests were not correctly uploaded to the state database and need to be updated and changed on a daily basis.
However, Minnesota’s test positivity rate, which the state reported after a one-week delay to clean up the data, rose to 15.6%. That was the peak of the pandemic that lasted nearly two years.
The number of weekly cases per capita has also skyrocketed and is now close to 100 infections per 100,000 residents.
“It’s clear that we’re in that period of rapid acceleration,” Jan Malcolm, the state health commissioner, said Thursday at the opening of another new coronavirus testing facility. “There is a lot of COVID out there right now.”
Health officials now believe omicrons are the source of nine out of 10 new infections – what Malcolm called Friday’s “omicron tsunami”.
WHAT DIFFERENT ABOUT OMICRON
The worrying latest variant that is believed to spread three to four times faster than the delta strain has caused Minnesota’s fourth and longest increase in coronavirus cases. That increase began in the summer of 2021 and never really subsided before omicron took over in December.
Minnesota was one of the first states to identify cases of the new variant, discovering the infection on December 1 in a Minneapolis man who had just returned from New York City. In mid-December, the omicron strain was thought to be the source of most of the new infections here and across the country.
A big reason for the increased transmissibility of omicrons is its ability to evade vaccines. Vaccines still offer protection against severe illness and death, but breakout cases are on the rise.
In addition, childhood hospital admissions are increasing nationally during the new wave of omicrons. Some health officials attribute this to low immunization rates among children and the tendency of omicrons to strike the upper airways rather than the lower airways, which are narrower in children.
The new variant is also thought to be able to cause milder infections, especially in people who have been fully vaccinated and have received a booster dose. But the trend toward milder disease doesn’t mean omicrons aren’t dangerous.
“The hairs on my neck stand up when I hear people say: ‘Omicron is not a delta. It’s mild,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, founder and leader of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. “That is if you are fully vaccinated and boosted. It could be if you don’t. But odds are, you’re playing Russian roulette, and you might not be so lucky.”
HOW IS MINNESOTA FEEDBACK?
State and federal health officials continue to urge a layered approach to coronavirus mitigation.
- Get tested often – if in contact with someone who has an infection and especially if you have symptoms.
- Wear a mask in public places – medical masks are now recommended for use on cloth.
- Social distancing in public places or when gathering with other households.
- Isolate if exposed and isolate if infected according to the instructions of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Vaccinations and booster shots when eligible.
Some of that is easier to do now than others, given the growing demand, particularly for vaccines and testing, amid a rise in omicron cases. Walz acknowledged those difficulties earlier this week.
“The number of tests we’re rolling out is an all-time high,” the governor said Tuesday. “There will be some delays. We are making structural changes. … I ask Minnesotans to just have a little patience. ”
This week, Walz announced three new community testing sites – in Anoka, Cottage Grove and North Branch – will be operated by the Minnesota National Guard. Now have it all more than two dozen community test sites statewide.
Walz has also promised 1.8 million more home tests to be distributed to schools and 150,000 more to be distributed to high-risk communities.
Walz and Malcolm touted the statewide testing system. They also acknowledged high demand and wait times and said they expect any delays to be short-lived.
“We do this omicron increase in a much better position,” says Malcolm. “We’re working across all areas to try to maximize the testing capacity we have.”
In addition to the 200 guards working at the testing sites, another 500 are working as medical assistants to help with hospital capacity issues. More than a dozen teams are working in long-term care facilities, like the one in Maplewood that Walz visited on Tuesday, to move less severe patients out of the hospital to make room for those with less severe symptoms. COVID-19 and other patients with more serious illnesses.
Hospitals were on the brink or beyond. The Minnesota Hospital Association has urged people not to go to emergency rooms for coronavirus testing.
“We have run out of words to describe what we are going through – a crisis that is not even close yet. The hospitals are literally full,” a statement from the group said. “We urgently need the public’s help to keep our emergency departments ready for medical emergencies.”
While omicron cases have been milder so far, it is so much more infectious that state officials fear already strained hospitals could be overwhelmed. The end goal of the so-called multi-layered mitigation approach is the same: to slow down the infection to a point where everyone in need of care can get it.
“A much smaller percentage than a much larger number is still a lot of hospital beds,” says Walz.
VACCINES IS THE KEY
That’s why vaccines and boosters are still so important in the fight against omicrons. While they may not completely prevent infection, in most healthy people they will protect against hospitalization and death.
Dr. Poland, of Mayo’s Vaccine Research Group, said those who received the booster vaccine were 90% less likely to be hospitalized and 70 percent less likely to get sick than those who were not vaccinated.
But people who are fully vaccinated and boosted can still get omicrons. Mutations account for more than 23 percent of infections since vaccination began.
“You really have to distinguish between stopping the infection and stopping the epidemic,” Poland said. “If you have a normal immune system, the ability of these vaccines to prevent disease is almost unprecedented.”
Vaccines are less likely to completely prevent infections, he added.
“You are essentially turning what could be a serious or even deadly case into an asymptomatic, milder or worse, moderate case,” Poland said. “That’s the value of vaccines.”
There’s been a lot of speculation and hope that omicrons’ transmissibility and propensity to cause less severe illness in many people will make the coronavirus endemic – essentially like the flu or the common cold. .
It could happen, but health officials here and around the globe warn that it’s wishful thinking. The problem is that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, keeps mutating, and the more people infected, the more chance it has to evolve and change.
“It continues to mutate because we continue to allow it to be highly transmissible and infect so many people,” said Dr. “As long as we have a lot of unvaccinated people, as long as we don’t wear masks, this is going to keep happening.”
That doesn’t mean the pandemic will never end. But it shows that it will take more collective effort for life to return to normal forever.
“I don’t think COVID cares about us being tired. Walz said. “It doesn’t care. It simply infects people. We now have most of the tools to prevent the most serious disease. We have the capacity to turn this around.”
For information on how to get tested or vaccinated, visit mn.gov/covid19 or call 1-833-431-2053.
https://www.twincities.com/2022/01/09/omicron-covid-mn-how-state-responding-vaccines/ How the State is reacting and what will happen – Twin Cities