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Masks now recommended in most of Minnesota

The CDC’s masking recommendation is not a mandate, though businesses can require them.

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A customer walks inside the Rochester Farmers Market on Nov. 7 in Rochester, Minn. (Noah Fish / Agweek)

ST. PAUL — Masks are now recommended in most of Minnesota’s 87 counties as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 70 of Minnesota’s counties have substantial or high rates of community transmission and masks are recommended for everyone in indoor public spaces, vaccinated or not. The CDC uses the rate of new cases and positive tests over the past week to make its recommendations.

There are just five counties where community transmission is considered low and 11 where it is considered moderate.

The CDC’s masking recommendation is not a mandate, though businesses can require them.

Nearly all new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are among people who are not vaccinated. Health officials believe more than 80 percent of new infections are caused by the more contagious delta variant.

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Minnesota reported six more COVID-19 deaths Friday, and 1,012 new coronavirus infections were reported by the state Department of Health.

The latest fatalities ranged in age from their 70s to their 90s and five lived in long-term care facilities. The number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities with coronavirus exposures has more than tripled in the last month.

More than 93 percent of long-term care residents and roughly 66 percent of workers are vaccinated.

Minnesota’s death toll is now 7,694, with 4,522 fatalities in long-term care. About 88 percent of Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths have been seniors.

The 1,012 new coronavirus infections reported Friday were the result of more than 24,000 tests. The current test-positivity rate is above 4 percent and nearing the 5 percent caution threshold health officials use to determine whether the outbreak is under control.

There are 267 people hospitalized, including 80 in critical condition. An estimated 5,900 people with active infections are recovering at home.

Minnesota has administered 5.9 million doses of vaccine and 3.1 million have gotten at least one dose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses while the Johnson & Johnson is only one.

There are nearly 70 percent of residents 16 and older who have gotten at least one shot.

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"We see through the data that when we have a high vaccination rate in facilities, absolutely we have less infection there," said North Dakota Long Term Care Association President Shelly Peterson. "It really does work. It really does make a difference."
They say the surging pandemic is stressing health systems by not only sending more people to the hospital, but also by taking staff away who are either sick with COVID-19, recovering, or have to stay home as caregivers because the virus has closed child care centers.
For the second day in a row, North Dakota reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases, a single-day threshold it had not met at any point during the pandemic prior to this week. Virus hospitalizations have climbed from 122 in the first week of January to 170 on Thursday.
The seven-day rolling average positive test rate reached 23.7%.