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Minnesota health department shifts to weekly COVID reporting

MDH has reported COVID-19 numbers each weekday since spring 2020 when the virus was first identified in Minnesota. Nearly 1.5 million Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus, 66,282 have been hospitalized and 12,792 have died.

COVID-19 testing file
Registered nurse Stephanie Bunich, of Duluth, uses a nasopharyngeal swab to administer a COVID-19 test in September at the Essentia Health drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth. (File / News Tribune).
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Health will shift from daily to weekly reporting of COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths beginning Thursday, June 30.

The agency said the move is an adaptation as demand continues to drop for laboratory-based COVID-19 screenings at community testing centers. Eight community testing sites are ending regular testing this week in cities including Bemidji and Wadena.

The reporting change is also in response to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifting its approach to gauging the public health risk posed by the virus.

"As testing behaviors have changed to include more at-home testing and with the CDC COVID-19 community levels focusing on severe disease, local disease activity, and related impacts, we are implementing more sustainable COVID-19 surveillance and data reporting efforts," the agency said in a statement.

MDH has reported COVID-19 numbers each weekday since spring 2020 when the virus was first identified in Minnesota. Nearly 1.5 million Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus, 66,282 have been hospitalized and 12,792 have died.

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Minnesota continues to report thousands of new cases each day, but fewer people are dying from COVID-19 than did during surges of earlier variants of the virus. The current dominant omicron variant and its subvariants are generally more contagious and less deadly than the delta variant, which dominated U.S. cases in the second half of 2021.

Daily case counts have not given as complete of a picture of community infection levels as fewer people get tested for COVID-19 through health care providers or state testing sites. In the past six months, sewage data has proven invaluable in predicting surges of the virus and identifying dominant strains. The University of Minnesota offers data from more than 40 wastewater treatment plants across the state.

In addition to changing the reporting schedule, MDH is also rolling out a new website design that features more interactive graphs and charts. The new website will focus on death and hospitalization rates and other trends rather than counts, the agency said, though downloadable data will be available for each graphic.

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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