Minnesota health officials reported another 51 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, pushing the state’s pandemic death toll past 3,200.

But at the end of a grim week in a difficult month, there was a glimmer of hope: Saturday’s update from the state Health Department marked the first time since Oct. 26 that the rolling weekly average of newly confirmed cases went down.

That number was 7,063 cases a day as of Friday's update; on Saturday it dropped to 6,715 — with no correlating drop in testing volume.

It could be evidence that the state has cleared a peak in the outbreak — but it could also just be a momentary blip in the numbers, especially if people go against health experts' pleas to call off Thanksgiving gatherings.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

• 3,201 deaths (51 new)

• 262,952 positive cases (6,265 new); 211,513 off isolation

• 3.7 million tests, 2.3 million people tested (about 40 percent of the population)

• 13.6 percent seven-day positive test rate (officials find 5 percent concerning)

Despite the encouraging signs in case numbers, current conditions remain severe across the state. The trend lines for deaths and hospitalizations continue to climb.

More than 1,700 people are in Minnesota hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 with about 20 percent needing intensive care. The number of hospitalizations has more than doubled since Nov. 1. The hospital admissions trend hit a new high Saturday, with the state averaging 261 new COVID-19 patients per day over the prior seven days.

Active, confirmed cases of the disease dropped back below 50,000 on Saturday, after reaching that mark on Friday for the first time in the pandemic. That’s as the state reported that more than 9,000 additional people with COVID-19 had recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.

Regionally, central and northern Minnesota have driven much of the recent increase in new cases while Hennepin and Ramsey counties show some of the slowest case growth in the state.

The fastest growing outbreaks remain largely along the state’s western border with the Dakotas, where the virus is spreading unchecked. But new cases are rising everywhere in Minnesota.

Collectively, rural areas continue to report the most new COVID-19 cases per capita.

The latest figures came on the same day new curbs intended to ease the spike in COVID-19 caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths are set to take hold.

“We’re at a dangerous point in this pandemic,” Walz told Minnesotans Wednesday. “How we act, and how this virus moves, will have huge implications on the number of people who will be hospitalized and, ultimately, those who will lose their lives.”

Walz on Friday said it was a priority for him to get financial aid to bars, restaurants and other businesses that will be shutdown now until Dec. 18 because of his order. So far, there’s been discussion with state lawmakers but no deal yet.

“We need to do something. It won’t be enough, but we need to do something in the short run to provide a bit of a lifeline,” he told reporters. “We can’t wait” for Congress to act.”

This story originally appeared at: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/11/21/latest-on-covid-in-mn of story Questions or requests? Contact MPR News editor Meg Martin at newspartners@mpr.org © 2020 Minnesota Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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