COVID-19 cases have been declining nationwide for weeks, although health experts emphasize that the country is not out of the woods yet: No one knows what the winter will bring, and some recent surges in certain areas of the country are stubbornly hanging on. One state actually reported COVID levels similar to pre-vaccine days when the disease was spreading unchecked. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
This State Has Pre-Vaccination Levels of COVID
This week, Minnesota recorded a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 8.3%, the highest in the vaccine era, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Wednesday. Hospitals are dealing with the highest influx of COVID patients since mid-December.
According to the CDC, all of the state's counties are at high risk for community transmission. In the last two weeks, new daily cases have risen by 29 percent and hospitalizations by 17 percent, the New York Times' COVID tracker indicates. That is the seventh-highest increase in new infections nationwide.
Delta Variant to Blame, Despite Vaccination Rate
The state's vaccination rate is relatively high: 59% of Minnesota residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 56% nationwide.
"Delta has changed the landscape for COVID-19," said state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.
The rise in cases "could reflect waning immunity in the earliest vaccine recipients, which include seniors and people with underlying illnesses who tend to have weaker immune system responses to the shots," the Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted.
In fact, nine of the 10 of the new deaths reported Tuesday were in people over age 65.
Hospitals Full and Struggling
On Monday, 960 people were hospitalized with COVID in the state, including 254 people in intensive care—the highest level in 2021. Statewide, 96% of intensive care beds and 93% of non-ICU beds are full.
"What's important to understand is that this isn't so much about the physical asset of a hospital bed or a ventilator, and those were big focuses earlier in the pandemic, but now this is really an issue of health care worker capacity," said Jan Malcolm, the state's health commissioner, in a news conference last week. "There are actually fewer health care workers on the job today than there were last year due to the extreme stress and burnout that they have faced for over 18 months now."
"Every element of our health system is incredibly stressed," said Dr. Kevin Croston, chief executive officer at North Memorial Health, one of Minnesota's largest medical systems, in the New York Times.
Colder Weather Brings Concern
"It is devastating to see the recurrent surge with concerns that the fall may prove to be even worse with cooler weather," Dr. Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News on Tuesday.
"With the amount of virus that's out there and the amount of the population that is not protected by the vaccine, there's unfortunately plenty of room for the virus to still do its harm," said Malcolm.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.