Minnesota could return to May's all-time high COVID-19 levels in a few weeks, expert says

Health experts in Minnesota haven’t been shy about linking an increase in COVID-19 cases to the reopening of bars and restaurants, but they say it’s not the only cause for concern.

“This is a tough hand nature has dealt us and how well we respond to it will determine how many people die,” said Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist.

Dr. Rhame doesn’t want to be an alarmist, but he knows the coronavirus isn’t done.

“Around 2% of our population in Minnesota has been infected and that’s a lot of firewood left,” said Rhame.

New state numbers show both hospitalizations and ICU cases are the highest they’ve been in a month.
“Weekly average case growth is increasing and we’re concerned about where this is headed,” said Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Mike Osterholm, the University of Minnesota’s expert epidemiologist, doesn’t think it’s headed anywhere good.

“I fear over the course of the next couple of weeks, unless something changes, we could actually be at the all-time high number of cases that we again saw in May,” said Osterholm.

He believes ground zero is bars and restaurants.

“So I think at this point that’s surely our number one location,” said Osterholm.

There is a possibility for a plateau in states-turned-hotspots, but Dr. Osterholm says Minnesotans can’t let down their guards.

“California, Florida, Texas are not only going to see a lulling of, but a dropping of cases over the next two to four weeks,” he said. “That will be offset however by an increase of cases in at least 20 different states of which Minnesota is one of them.”

He adds – another factor in our numbers – is if and when students head back inside classrooms. 

“I think if that were the case, this plateau I talked about that might occur in the next few weeks actually could see another spike in cases that could be higher than anything we’ve seen so far,” said Osterholm.

Not all hope is lost, but the doctors say it will take discipline.

“We can do a lot wearing masks, distancing, washing hands,” said Rhame. “Please distance that’s really what will save you in the end.”