We’ve never seen so many warnings from the government about the state of public health. That’s because we’ve never before faced a threat like the current coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz once again urged Minnesotans about the need to adhere to social distancing, mask wearing and staying away from big gatherings. The next six to 12 weeks will be critical as the weather cools and people move indoors where the virus can spread more easily.
As the number of Minnesota cases continues to rise, surpassing 1,000 or 1,500 a day, so too have the number of serious cases requiring hospitalization. Hospitalization and ICU rates are nearing the levels of May when the first big COVID wave hit Minnesota.
Positivity rates on Monday reached 7 percent, 2 percentage points over the 5 percent level that experts say is the benchmark needed to stop rapid spread of the virus. Tuesday’s was even worse — 15%. The seven day average of deaths is 114, the highest since June.
The rate of infection is also rising. Infections increased 22 percent from mid-August to mid-September, but 83 percent from mid-September to mid-October.
In the Mankato region, total cases were up again last week, but not as by much compared to statewide. Regional cases were at 342 for the week ended Oct. 23, that’s up slightly from the 335 cases the week before but still down from late September when there was a spike up to 490.
There appears to be solid compliance with social distancing in most of Mankato, and that may be why our cases have not skyrocketed as they have in other places.
So social distancing works. Wearing a mask works. And these are simple measures everyone can do without much trouble.
While Walz continues to be criticized for his push for social distancing and the mask requirement, he pointedly said he had no plans to roll back business capacity or revert to a business shutdown. His latest sense of urgency came from a meeting with White House coronavirus task force adviser Dr. Deborah Birx, who said Minnesota could end up like other states, unless we take action within our power.
We take Walz at his word. Minnesota is using data and solid expert advice to keep in place things that are working. Health experts say 95 percent compliance with the mask mandate will do much more good than shutting down businesses.
So for all of us, the choice is simple. Wear a mask, or wait until your favorite business is shut down.