Seven more Minnesotans died from COVID-19, including two Stearns County residents, according to data released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The state’s death toll is now 2,151. One of the Stearns County residents who died was between 75-79; the other was between 80-84.
Minnesota saw an increase of 1,150 confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday, marking the sixth day in a row the state had more than 1,000 new cases.
As a way to combat the growing community spread, Gov. Tim Walz announced the expansion of the state’s saliva testing program, as well as the launch of a pilot program for at-home testing.
“The upper Midwest is now a hot spot like we’ve seen in other parts of the country. The state of Minnesota is surrounded by the first, second and fourth highest transmission rates in the country and once that starts to happen, more of the bad outcomes, more of the hospitalizations start to show up just by sheer numbers,” Walz said.
“So one of the things we’ve focused on … is (cutting) off that community spread by making sure people get tested as easily and as quickly as close to their home as they possibly can,” he said “The longer it takes for us to find out if somebody has this, the more they unknowingly spread it. So taking a test and waiting several days to get the results — that really impedes our ability to slow this down.”
In Minnesota, 114,574 people have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic; of those, more than 102,000 no longer require isolation.
Testing has increased by 65% since early September.
“But cases are growing faster than testing is. That is not good,” said Dan Huff, assistant commissioner for the health protection bureau, in a media call Tuesday afternoon.
The saliva testing is free and available to all Minnesotans, with or without symptoms. Identification is not required, although the person being tested will need to provide an email address and phone number to receive their results. Insurance is also not required.
The first semi-permanent site opened in Duluth a few weeks ago. Additional saliva testing sites are scheduled to open in Winona on Oct. 14, Moorhead on Oct. 17 and Brooklyn Center on Oct. 20.
Huff said the health department is finalizing the details for six additional sites, which it will likely announce later this month; two of the new sites will be in greater Minnesota and four will be in the Twin Cities metro.
“Saliva testing is now a part of Minnesota’s strategy to expand and diversify the COVID testing options that are available to all Minnesotans,” he said.
Huff anticipates at-home testing to be available for all Minnesotans in November. When that program is fully implemented, residents will register online and receive at-home testing kits via UPS.
Once the state’s saliva testing laboratory in Oakdale is fully running, the state’s testing capacity will increase from about 30,000 tests per day to about 60,000 tests per day.
The department is also offering free testing for those with or without symptoms this week in St. Cloud. Testing is available from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday at River’s Edge Convention Center.
The tri-county area accounted for 47 of the new cases: Stearns County saw an additional 29 cases, while Sherburne County had 17 new cases and Benton County had 10 new cases.
Case totals in Central Minnesota are:
- Stearns County — 4,758 cases, 31 deaths
- Sherburne County — 1,381 cases, 16 deaths
- Benton County — 715 cases, four deaths
Of the other COVID-19 deaths listed Tuesday, two residents were between 80-84, two were between 85-89 and one was between 95-99.
Globally, there are nearly 38 million cases of COVID-19, including 7.8 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. More than 1 million have died of the infection worldwide, including more than 215,000 people in the U.S.
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