Minnesota ties single-day high for COVID-19 deaths Wednesday

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 35 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 Wednesday—tying the record for the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since the onset of the pandemic. 

The only other time the state reported 35 deaths in a single day was on May 28. State public health officials said Wednesday that the latest spike in deaths could not simply be attributed to a backlog in cases.

Twenty-five of the 35 newly reported deaths were in long-term care or assisted living facilities. To date, approximately 71% of Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths have been in those types of facilities. 

All of the deaths were people 60 or older. Eighteen of the 35 deaths were in the Twin Cities metro. 

Minnesota’s death toll from COVID-19 is now up to 2,281. 

State health officials also reported 1,082 new cases of COVID-19 out of 15,963 tests completed in a 24-hour period—a positivity rate of 6.8%. The key metric, the 7-day rolling average positivity rate, was at 5.8% as of the last update from health officials, although it is a lagging indicator. Anything over 5% is a concern for MDH as it indicates a high rate of community transmission. 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday he is nervous for what comes next after the state reported 35 new deaths from the coronavirus, matching the record for a single day.

For weeks, Minnesota held out as surrounding states saw record hospitalizations. Now, Minnesota's cases are soaring, new hospital admissions hit a record on Wednesday, and the positivity rate climbed to 6.8 percent -- approaching uncontrolled community spread.

"Once you spread this broadly into the public, there is a real reason to be concerned," Walz told reporters in St. Paul. "I think, going back to May, we’re probably at a real critical point."

Walz, a Democrat in his first term, did not directly answer a reporter who asked if he would roll back the state's reopening to fight the virus. Walz said he talks with fellow Midwestern governors at least weekly, and some of those governors have tightened restrictions in their states.

The state saw its first wave of infections in May. Unlike the spring, when the coronavirus was primarily an urban dilemma confined to nursing homes and large food processing plants, it's spreading statewide now.

“I think it’s fair to say we are seeing more deaths in greater Minnesota because we are seeing more cases there," said Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director. "In fact, our case growth there at this point is greater in regions across the state than it is in the Twin Cities metro area."

Walz's handling of the virus has been intensely partisan at the state Capitol. This week, top Republican lawmakers said if they win control of the Legislature after November's election, they will end the governor's emergency powers and let bars, restaurants and schools reopen without conditions imposed by the state.

Walz has said his opponents are ignoring science.

"At 7 months in, I’m not sure what I can say," Walz said Wednesday. "If you wear a mask and social distance and keep indoor activities to a manageable level, fewer people get COVID. That’s just simply science. If we don’t do those things, it’ll go right back up."