It will likely be at least three weeks before Minnesota begins to see how a recent requirement to wear masks in closed public places impacts the state’s coronavirus outbreak.
“Don’t be discouraged because our case numbers were large today,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of the infectious diseases division of the Minnesota Department of Health, Monday. “The mask order only started on Saturday.”
Minnesota reported 650 new coronavirus infections and two additional deaths from COVID-19 on Monday. That brings the state’s case load to 51,803 laboratory-confirmed infections and 1,576 deaths.
There is now at least one case of coronavirus in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties after Lake of the Woods County recorded its first case over the weekend. Most cases are located on the Twin Cities subway, but rural counties with meat processing plants have the majority of cases per capita.
Minnesota has seen a steady increase in cases, on average 580 new infections per day, throughout July. The state added 2,315 new infections since Friday.
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order on July 22 requiring the use of masks in all closed public places, except for residents with health problems. The order went into effect on Saturday and is expected to be in effect in the coming months.
Some have criticized the state order, including leading Republican lawmakers, as too broad and unnecessary.
Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said Monday that wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance of at least six feet, frequent hand washing, and staying home when sick are easier and more effective things than people in Minnesota can do to slow the spread of the coronavirus. . She added that a recent survey found that 85 percent of Minnesotans have a positive view of wearing masks.
“We certainly don’t want Minnesota to experience the consequences of very rapid growth (infection) like Florida and other states,” said Malcolm. “We have the power to prevent that rapid and uncontrolled spread.”
Malcolm and Ehresmann said the state Department of Health routinely receives complaints from companies and residents who do not follow state instructions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including about 60 complaints over the weekend. The state has not yet had to take coercive measures such as fines or license revocation because the companies identified in the complaints have addressed them on their own.
Health officials are closely monitoring several important factors about the state outbreak, including test positivity rates, hospitalized patients, and whether infections are spreading through unknown sources. That data is used to make decisions about the rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
There are 257 hospitalized patients with 126 critically ill. More than 45,000 people who tested positive for the virus have recovered sufficiently and no longer need to isolate.
Minnesota currently has a test positivity rate of less than 5 percent and a cumulative positivity rate of 5.3 percent.
Those will be among the metrics that state leaders will consider when they announce guidance later this week on the best way to reopen public schools this year.
“Compliance with the guidelines we have presented is very critical at this time. We feel that we are in a very vulnerable state, ”said Malcolm. “The trends of the past few weeks have made this analysis more challenging. These next few weeks are very critical. “