Minneapolis

Funeral outbreak, young adult death underscore virus risks

2021-07-16 13:06:48 –

Pandemic measures remained low in Minnesota on Friday, but a cluster of infections traced to a funeral and the state’s 14th COVID-19 death of someone in their 20s underscored the continued risks.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 249 more infections with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and three more deaths, including someone age 20 to 24 from Itasca County. The additions raise pandemic totals to 607,524 infections and 7,635 deaths in Minnesota, which also reported an uptick in the positivity rate of diagnostic testing from a low of 1.1% on June 28 to 1.6%.

Infections and large group outbreaks had been declining in the state for the past three months — with more than 3.1 million eligible Minnesotans 12 and older receiving COVID-19 vaccine since it first became available last December. The vaccination rate has reached 67.8% in Minnesotans 16 and older, leaving the state just short of an interim goal of 70%.

No reportable outbreaks have been identified in bars or restaurants over the past five weeks, despite the end of the state’s indoor mask mandate and social distancing restrictions that had previously reduced capacities in such establishments.

The state has verified an outbreak linked to a June funeral in Anoka County, though, that involved at least five people who tested positive and two people who suffered breakthrough infections despite being vaccinated. While all evidence suggests the vaccine is protective — with only .1% of fully vaccinated Minnesotans testing positive for breakthrough infections — state health officials said the risk remains greater in regions where coverage is lower.

The first-dose vaccination rate of people 16 and older ranges from a high of 83% in northeastern Cook County to a low of 43% in northwestern Clearwater County.

“It is reasonable to expect that in areas with lower vaccination rates, we could see more breakthrough cases,” said Stephanie Meyer, a senior epidemiologist for the state health department and coordinator of breakthrough and variant infection investigations. “People in those areas who are vaccinated are more at risk for breakthrough because they are being bombarded with more virus, have more frequent exposures, and have less protection from the community around them.”

New infection waves in several Southern and Mountain states in the U.S. have been fueled by a more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus, but it has only been identified in 129 cases in Minnesota.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota have fallen since the peak of this spring’s wave — from 699 in mid-April to 91 on Wednesday.

The death of the Itasca resident was the 14th involving someone in the 20 to 29 age range and the 17th involving someone younger than 30. More than 87% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have involved senior citizens, but that rate has slightly declined with more than 91% of people 65 and older in the state receiving vaccine. The Itasca resident had underlying health problems that contributed to the death.

Minnesota on Friday eliminated one of five key measures in its tracking of pandemic activity — the rate of infections involving unknown community transmissions. That had been a key measure earlier in the pandemic, indicating the level of viral spread that was occurring in communities that was beyond the state’s ability to track and contain.

However, the rate of such infections has remained above 40% for most of 2021, partly because state contact tracers have encountered more reluctance among individuals to disclose where they might have been infected and who else might have been exposed.

Despite the recent increase, the positivity rate of testing remains well below the state’s 5% caution threshold that indicates uncontrolled viral spread. New infection, hospitalization, and COVID-19 testing rates remain below the state caution thresholds.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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