ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s top health official says the state is in a “critical spot” as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues.

Governor Tim Walz and Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm Monday presented a data-driven look at the progression and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since March.

Minnesota set a one-day record of 101 deaths related to COVID-19 last Wednesday, which Malcolm described as “startling.”

“This is the worst spot we’ve been in since March - that’s what the data tell us,” said Malcolm. “We’re certainly looking for signs of promise. We’re certainly looking for evidence over the coming weeks that the four-week pause that we’re in now will have a sustainable impact on these numbers.”

Health officials confirmed another roughly 5,800 positive cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, along with 15 new deaths – the lowest number in several weeks. However, Minnesota’s total COVID-19 death toll now sits at 3,593, with around one-third of related deaths having occurred in November.

Malcolm says Minnesota and other portions of the Upper Midwest have been hit particularly hard by the virus in recent weeks.

“For quite a while, especially in Minnesota, we were noticeably doing better than many other states,” Malcolm said. “Unfortunately, that’s now changed.”

Malcolm says Minnesota’s current rate of case growth means that the state now has more cases per population than New York, Arizona, Texas and Florida – other former COVID-19 hot spots.

“We are a hot spot,” said Malcolm.

On the heels of a travel weekend for millions of Americans, Malcolm and other health officials have expressed concern that another wave of infections could arrive in coming days as family and friends could have spread the virus to others without knowing it. Malcolm said Minnesota could surpass 400,000 cases of COVID-19 in the next few weeks.

“With the growth in cases we’ve seen in recent weeks, it means we’re likely to see increased deaths in coming weeks as well,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm says public health spread mitigation strategies, coupled with the promise of a vaccine ready for distribution in coming months, present “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We know that it’s not going to be a short tunnel,” Malcolm said. “The vaccine supply is going to be limited for some time. It’s going to take time for it to be rolled out and made available to everyone. But we know that we can look forward to better days in 2021.”

Walz and Malcolm again encouraged people to wear masks in public, socially distance and take other measures to slow the spread of the virus. Minnesota's latest dial-back to slow the spread of COVID-19 runs through Dec. 18.

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