Minnesota has not seen full impact of Thanksgiving on COVID-19 yet, Malcolm warns

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm cautioned Minnesotans Friday that despite the relatively low case counts the health department has reported this week, the state has not yet seen the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Tim Walz imposed a new round of restrictions closing gyms, entertainment venues, and indoor dining at bars and restaurants designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, officials were urging Minnesotans to stay home for Thanksgiving and avoid gathering with people outside their household.

However, Malcolm says it is still too early to assess the impact of those measures because it can take a full four weeks to see their effect. 

“We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing,” Malcolm said. “But, we’ve not yet seen the Thanksgiving impact fully.” 

MDH reported 3,773 new COVID-19 cases on a high testing volume of 58,497 tests on Friday—a positivity rate of 6.5%, which is back to where Minnesota was in September and October.  

Minnesota has averaged around 4,500 cases per day over the last week, down significantly from the high daily cases counts the state saw in November. 

“It boggles my mind really to think that 3,000 cases in a day feels like a good number to us. This is still an extremely high rate of virus in the community,” Malcolm warned. 

Malcolm said 10 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people is considered a sign the virus is out of control. Minnesota is currently averaging 85 cases per day per 100,000 people, although three weeks ago the state was averaging 120 cases per 100,000 people, she said. 

Minnesota is still in a “very, very vulnerable place,” Malcolm said. 

MDH also reported 94 new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second-most reported in a single day to date. The state has now reported more than 80 coronavirus-related deaths for three consecutive days. 

Deaths lag cases by a couple of weeks, according to officials, so the peak in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations Minnesota saw in late November is resulting in the higher deaths rates that have been reported this week. 

“There’s case numbers, then there’s a lag period. Then there’s hospitalizations increase, then there’s a lag period. Then there’s deaths,” Walz said. 

Walz is expected to announce on Monday whether he will extend his current order closing gyms, entertainment venues and indoor dining at restaurants and bars, which is set to expire on Dec. 18.