Is Minnesota a Looming COVID-19 Hotspot? According to an article published this week in The Washington Post, the answer is a somewhat worrisome -- maybe.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the recent increase in cases is concerning, although at the moment things aren't as critical as they were in October and November.

In the past three days, new positive reported COVID-19 cases gave been on the rise, with 826 reported on Monday; 708 Tuesday, 1,036, Wednesday, and 1,505 yesterday.

Good news, bad news: Bad news first as yesterday we surpassed a half-million COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, and we're now over 6,800 deaths. Now the good news, as we have delivered over two million vaccination doses so far.

The stay-the-course message is colliding with human nature. Winter is releasing its grip. Restaurants are opening, as are stadiums, with capacity limits. People are desperate to see friends and family members they have missed for so long. This may be an especially challenging part of the pandemic, said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The message of holding off, stay the course, don't give up now, and the vaccine is coming is falling on far too many deaf ears.

Minnesota Cases by County

MN.gov

The article cites University of Minnesota epidemiologist Mike Osterholm as saying that the U.K. variant of the virus is likely more transmissible and more likely to cause more severe or fatal illness -- which is a double whammy.

In the article Osterholm says:

By relaxing restrictions the United States is moving in the opposite direction of Europe, and that makes the country more vulnerable to this variant. We have such an optimism about the vaccines, which we should. But right now we have to be very cautious.

Current outbreaks in Carver County in the western part of the Twin Cities, and most recently at Pine City High School have officials watching closely at what they're calling a 'slight uptick' in cases.

This all comes as the state loosens restrictions, allowing increased capacity at bars, restaurants, paces of worship, and more -- along with a limited number of fans being allowed to attend home games for the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Minnesota United starting early next month.

The State of Minnesota continues to encourage eligible Minnesotans to get vaccinated, as well as for all of us to mask up and social distance whenever possible.

A parting piece of good news from the article:

Disease tracker David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia does not foresee a return to the level of cases reported during the winter.

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