MINNEAPOLIS — While two super-infectious strains of the Omicron variant arenew infections in Minnesota appear to be holding steady, although there are signs the new variants are spreading.
Data from the University of Minnesota wastewater surveillance study shows an increase in virus prevalence this week in all of the seven regions tracked but one — the state’s southeastern corner. The areas that saw the greatest increases were southwestern and south-central Minnesota, both of which have recorded significant spikes since July 10.
Meanwhile, the viral load in Twin Cities wastewater has held steady this month, although there was a slight uptick in Sunday’s data.
Tracking the virus through wastewater allows researchers to monitor changes in the population without having to rely on testing. The wastewater studies account for people who don’t know they are infected or who take at-home tests, which are not tracked by state data.
According to the University of Minnesota’s surveillance hub, wastewater data from more than 40 treatment plants across the state is analyzed each week, covering for nearly 70% of Minnesota residents. The Metropolitan Council also tracks wastewater data for the Twin Cities area, and last week’s findings showed that the two new Omicron variants (BA.5 and BA.4) accounted for nearly 80% of the viral load.
Minnesota Department of Health data shows that the new variants are causing breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated and boosted. However, people who are not vaccinated are far more likely to be hospitalized with the virus the data shows, and they are also more likely to die, especially if over the age of 65.
The latest coronavirus update from the state shows that the seven-day average of new cases in Minnesota was at 843 cases as of 4 a.m. Tuesday, the lowest it’s been since mid-April. For most of this month, the rate has been higher, even breaching 1,400 cases on July 11.
The seven-day average hospitalization rate was at 45 patients as of Tuesday, the latest date for which data is available. Over that period, an average of five patients required intensive care beds.
Meanwhile, the average weekly mortality rate was at 1.4 deaths over that same period. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, nearly 13,000 people have died in Minnesota.