MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of daily COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota remains in the single digits even as hundreds of new cases are being counted in the state each day.

On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health said that in the last 24 hours, 499 people tested positive for the disease and two more people had died from it — the lowest daily death count since mid-April.

But health officials also look at the percent of positive cases as an indicator of how Minnesota is handling the pandemic.

On Monday, the average seven-day positivity rate in Minnesota of COVID-19 cases was 4.7%, which was down from the high of 16% in April. The rate compares the number of positive cases relative to the total number of tests performed.

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Dr. Bobbi Pritt of the Mayo Clinic credits early quarantining efforts in the state.

“April was early on in the pandemic when it was hitting Minnesota, and we were just starting to adopt those safe distancing practices and our quarantining,” Pritt said.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm says one dial-back indicator Minnesota would be a 15% positivity rate. The World Health Organization advises that the positive test rate be at or below 5% for 14 days straight in order to safely keep the economy open.

“If you go above 5% it indicates that you may be heading back into a phase of more rapid spread of the disease,” Malcolm said.

(credit: CBS)

In Florida, the new U.S. epicenter of the virus, the percent positivity rate was at 11.5% Monday. One month ago, Florida’s positivity rate was also like Minnesota’s, under 5%.

“All it takes is an infected individual to go to a very public place and be exposed to a lot of other people,” Pritt said.

Still, the number of cases in Minnesota are going back up as the average age of cases drops. MDH infectious disease expert Kris Ehresmann says she’s concerned that cases growing among younger people will spread to more vulnerable populations in the coming weeks.

“We are likely going see increases in our hospitalizations because of the ripple effect of cases in our younger populations,” Ehresmann said.

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She said state health officials are watching hot spots in other parts of the country. At this time they’re not considering a mandatory self-quarantine when Minnesotans return from travel out of state.

Minnesota’s death toll for COVID-19 is now at 1,504. Most of the victims have been residents in long-term care.

Since the start of the outbreak in March, 42,772 people have tested positive for the disease. So far, more than 36,000 of those patients have recovered and no longer require isolation.

Currently, 247 people in Minnesota hospitals are battling the disease, with 144 people in intensive care. In the last month, hospitalizations have been trending downward.

Also on Monday morning, leaders in Minnesota’s Republican-controlled Senate called for an end to Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency powers, which he extended Monday. The governor has been using these powers to respond to the pandemic with emergency orders.

Walz is currently considering whether or not to implement a statewide face mask mandate.

Kate Raddatz