Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Majority of cases now in young people |

People in their 20s now make up the largest age group of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, leading health officials to fear that younger adults aren’t doing enough to prevent the virus’ spread as they move back into public spaces.

The news comes after clusters of cases were tied to bars in Mankato and Minneapolis, suggesting that some younger adults aren’t doing enough to prevent the virus’ spread as they move back into public spaces.

Minnesota’s early sacrifices to limit COVID-19’s spread “will be undermined if we don’t get cooperation from all Minnesotans, especially younger Minnesotans, who are most active and social,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Friday.

“We desperately need younger Minnesotans to take it seriously,” she added.

While recent overall trends in deaths and hospitalizations from the disease are encouraging, health leaders now worry that people are letting down their guard as they return to bars and restaurants, giving the disease a chance to rekindle.

Here are the coronavirus statistics as of Friday, June 26:

  • 34,616 cases confirmed (498 new) via 557,278 tests
  • 1,411 deaths (5 new)
  • 3,966 cases requiring hospitalization
  • 335 people remain hospitalized; 157 in intensive care
  • 30,008 patients no longer needing isolation

In south central Minnesota, Rice County has the most confirmed cases, now at 783, including four deaths. Blue Earth County is next with 335 confirmed and two deaths, while Steele County has 212 confirmed and no deaths. Le Sueur County has 75 confirmed and one death; Nicollet County 123 confirmed and 12 deaths; Waseca County 52 confirmed and no deaths; Goodhue County 113 confirmed and eight deaths; Brown County 23 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 40 confirmed and two deaths.

Public Health officials in Rice County noted that at least part of the higher number of cases in that county can be attributed to a higher rate of testing. Area businesses who are screening employees each time they arrive for work is also contributing to the higher number of confirmed cases, officials said.

In Nicollet County, the death toll is higher due to impact on the elderly community. At least one assisted living facility in the county reported a couple dozen cases, though it did not report the number of deaths from its facility. All deaths in the county have been residents in their 80s or 90s.

Bar-driven clusters

More than 100 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among Minnesotans in their 20s in the Mankato area who said they went to bars on June 12 and 13 — the first weekend bars and restaurants were allowed to serve indoors.

Two Mankato bars — Rounders and The 507 — were the focal points of that young adult outbreak, Ehresmann said Friday. Officials were also following up on a cluster of 30 cases at two Minneapolis bars — Cowboy Jack’s and Kollege Klub.

Social media from those bars shows they were crowded, with no room for social distancing, and people who were standing and not masked, so not following the state guidance, Ehresmann said.

“It’s not that you can’t socialize. It’s not that you can’t have fun,” she said. “But you need to do in a manner that’s safe for you and the people around you.”

Friday’s Health Department data showed that Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the largest age group of confirmed cases in Minnesota — 7,045 people infected, with two deaths.

While those young people may be less likely to suffer complications from COVID-19, officials say the concern is that they may be unknowingly spreading the disease to grandparents or other potentially vulnerable populations.

The median age of confirmed cases in Minnesota has been dipping and is now just under 40 years old.

Ehresmann on Friday noted that some of the people who tested positive in Mankato work in child care, pointing out that they have a high likelihood of inadvertently spreading the disease to children and families.

Death rates slowing

Concerns about the behavior of young adults come as the death rate from the disease continues to slow.

The Health Department reported 1,411 people have died from the disease, up five from Thursday. Friday marked the first time since mid-April that the state reported six consecutive days of deaths in the single digits.

Another hopeful trend: The counts of people currently hospitalized (335) and needing intensive care (157) — two closely watched metrics as officials try to manage the spread of the disease — continue to flatten, with an overall downward trend the past few weeks.

Meatpacking hot spots remain

Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.

That includes Mower County in southeastern Minnesota, where there were 868 confirmed cases as of Friday.

Mower County is home to Hormel Foods and Quality Pork Processors. Both have been partnering with Mayo Clinic to ramp up employee testing.

While some of Mower County’s positive cases are associated with people who work in the facilities and with the people they live with, county officials say they are also seeing transmission among people who live in the county but work in other counties where coronavirus is present.

Nobles, in southwestern Minnesota, reported 1,643 confirmed cases Friday. About 1 in 14 people now have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began, although the count of new cases has slowed considerably in recent weeks.

Worthington’s massive JBS pork processing plant was the epicenter of the Nobles outbreak. The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.

Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.

An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Friday, confirmed cases were at 2,156 with 19 deaths.

Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also dealing with a significant caseload more than two months after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus.

As of Friday, the Health Department reported 564 people have now tested positive in the county, the same as Thursday. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases in late April.

Cases have also climbed noticeably in Cottonwood County (130 cases), home to a pork processing plant in Windom, and in Lyon County (289 cases), around a turkey processor in Marshall.

MN Medical Association, health care groups urge policymakers for mandatory masking

The Minnesota Medical Association and 20 other health care groups from around the state are urging public and private sector officials to require masks to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.

In a statement, the group says that a growing body of evidence shows that mask-wearing is helpful in preventing the virus from spreading.

The statement comes as states including Texas and Florida have seen a massive spike in cases weeks after relaxing social distancing rules, and as Minnesota has identified clusters of cases among bar-hoppers in the Mankato area and Minneapolis’ Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota campus.

The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis require masks in stores and other indoor spaces, while some other Minnesota cities including Duluth and Rochester do not.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News

Inmate dies at Faribault prison after testing positive for COVID-19

The Minnesota Department of Corrections on Thursday reported a 43-year-old inmate at the Faribault prison has died nearly three weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement, the department says Adrian Raymaar Keys died at a hospital Tuesday evening. Keys and an unspecified number of other men tested positive for COVID-19 on June 4.

The agency says Keys’ health deteriorated over the weekend and he was hospitalized on Monday. If the Hennepin County Medical Examiner determines that his death was related to COVID-19 complications, it would be the first COVID-19-related death of a Minnesota inmate.

More than 200 Faribault inmates — or about 12 percent of the prison’s population — have tested positive for the coronavirus in June. That’s far more than in any other Minnesota prison.

The Corrections Department says four Faribault staff members also tested positive, but have since returned to work.

— Matt Sepic | MPR News

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