MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We are entering month six of the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota.

The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in Minnesota was announced on March 6. Since then, more than 1,600 Minnesotans have died from the virus.

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The latest figures released by the Minnesota Department of Health Wednesday showed 305 people are hospitalized, which includes ICU patients, for COVID-19 complications. Three weeks ago, that number was 230.

“We’ve seen up and downs, but the case growth over the last month has been pretty significant,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

MDH closely tracks the positivity rate as a key in monitoring the spread of the virus. It measures the number of positive COVID-19 tests against the total number of tests administered. The daily positivity rate was over 5% Wednesday.

MDH has warned a positivity rate above 5% indicates a more rapid spread of the disease.

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As far as testing, Malcolm said the state still has the capacity to administer the 20,000-a-day goal. But, it has faced an uptick in a global testing supply shortage, and some local providers have had to cut back.

“Some have less walk-in or drive-up appointments than they had before. Some are prioritizing patients who are having procedures scheduled,” Malcolm said.

Health officials also said the biggest concern for outbreaks remains any event where there is a gathering of people, like bars, but there have also been cluster outbreaks from family gatherings, concerts, and socializing after sporting events.

“It’s why we just keep reinforcing how important it is to not just think everything is back to normal and we can socialize without any constraints,” said Malcolm.

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Commissioner Malcolm did say that there are encouraging signs of having better treatment options for COVID-19. She said early results of convalescent plasma therapy show promise and medical providers are also learning how to better manage more severe cases.

Kate Raddatz