Delta variant cause of 75 percent of Minnesota's new COVID-19 cases

Jul. 20—More than 75 percent of all recent coronavirus infections in Minnesota are believed to be caused by the more contagious delta variant that is also suspected to cause more severe illness in some people.

Delta variant infections have grown dramatically in recent weeks — climbing from about 56 percent of all new infections in mid-June to 75 percent or more after July 1, according to a recent analysis by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Yet, health officials caution that the true impact of the variant is murky because few coronavirus samples are genetically sequenced to determine the virus' strain. The prevalence of the delta variant in Minnesota is similar to what is being seen nationally, but states with lower vaccination rates have seen even higher infection numbers.

"It's clear that the Delta variant is more transmissible," the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement. "We continue to urge all eligible Minnesotans to get vaccinated now so they are ready for the school year and we can help limit spread of COVID-19 in schools and our communities."

Vaccines have proven very effective against both the original coronavirus and its variants at protecting against infection and severe disease. About 68 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

Health officials say nearly all new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been in residents who are not vaccinated.

"Wherever there are low vaccination rates, people remain more susceptible to the Delta variant as well as all strains of the SARS CoV2 virus," the state Department of Health statement said.

A recent Pioneer Press analysis found that the highest numbers of new cases per capita were in rural counties, many of which have low rates of vaccination. There are 55 of Minnesota's 87 counties with fewer than 50 percent of the population with one dose of vaccine.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 625 new coronavirus infections Tuesday and one additional COVID-19 death was recorded. New cases have been higher on Tuesdays, especially after the state stopped reporting data on weekends.

The results of about 25,000 coronavirus tests were reported Tuesday, similar to the number reported a week earlier. The current, seven-day rolling average for test-positivity continues to trend upward and is now above 2 percent.

That's well below the 5 percent caution threshold but a change from early July when the rate was below 1 percent.

Minnesota has tested 10.4 million samples from 4.5 million residents and 608,405 cases have been reported since March 2020.

The death of St. Louis County resident in their 80s brings the death toll to 7,639 since the pandemic began. The latest fatality lived in long-term care and the death toll in those facilities has reached 4,492, or 59 percent of all of Minnesota's COVID-19 deaths.

There are 109 patients hospitalized including 23 in critical condition. An estimated 1,620 people with active infections are recovering at home.

Vaccination numbers continue to rise, albeit slowly, with 3.1 million residents having received at least one dose and 2.9 million completing their vaccine series.

Nearly 68 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have gotten at least one shot.