ROCHESTER, Minn. — The state of Minnesota reported an additional 2,279 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, Dec. 16, bringing the cumulative statewide case total to 386,412.

The 2,279 new cases represent a continuing downward trend in cases, albeit one punctuated by soaring numbers of hospitalizations and the highest death rates of the pandemic.

Nearly 900 Minnesotans have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 in the last seven days, and more than 500 residents have died during that same time period.

With nearly 19,980 residents having been hospitalized, 4,323 in an ICU, the state is poised to have treated enough residents to fill up a basketball arena.

During a call with outstate reporters, Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday reasserted that while the state is in seeing a reduction in spread given the mitigation in place since Thanksgiving, and is buoyed by the arrival this week of vaccines, it is in no position to entertain the idea of resuming normal interactions.

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"Let's be honest with ourselves as Americans," he said. "This has been an abject failure as a nation to contain COVID, and it's because there wasn't a shared set of rules to be followed."

Walz contrasted the U.S. with nations that shut down affected businesses and quickly provided aid to those without work, and suffered fewer losses.

"Here we are, nine months later, 305,000 dead, 18 million infected, our hospitals are still packed, and we still have some time to go here."

While the state views fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents as acceptable, it is currently recording eight times that amount, and was 12 times that threshold just a few weeks ago.

The new cases Wednesday came on just 16,600 tests, which was the lowest new testing total since before Halloween.

The governor on Wednesday extended his order closing indoor seating in bars and restaurants, until at least Jan. 10, while easing restrictions to allow outdoor dining at half capacity and allowing the use of indoor gyms with certain restrictions. Elementary schools will have the option of going to in person class with mitigation measures no later than Jan. 18.

92 deaths, most in Greater Minnesota

Those much-awaited executive orders came on a day that delivered another 92 deaths from the illness, tying for third-largest one-day total yet.

The new deaths reported Wednesday included just 38 or roughly 40% in the seven-county metro area, with 54 or nearly 60% in Greater Minnesota. This is nearly a reversal of the population ratio in the state, one in which outstate Minnesota has 45% of the population and the metro has 55% of the state's residents.

No one county dominated the mortality figures Wednesday. Rather, the losses were spread among 37 of the state's 87 counties, with Stearns County reporting six deaths and St. Louis County reporting nine deaths in a single day.

One of the deaths on Wednesday, a person in Chippewa County, was in their late 40s.

The day's deaths included 54 persons in long-term care and one inmate of a correctional facility. There have now been 4,575 COVID-19 deaths to date, 65% of those being residents of long-term care.

Walz used part of his remarks to remind listeners that while he has become a target of critics frustrated at closures, he is carrying out the wishes of the state's precarious health care systems, which have very nearly been overwhelmed.

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"This isn't us versus an industry," Walz said, in a reference to the state's beleaguered food and beverage industries. "This is a global pandemic, the fight against a killer virus, one that we have a lot of tools to fight, but one where we've got a little fighting still left.

"We didn't have mobile morgues, or overwhelm our health care system," he said, "but we walked right up to it. We're coming down off of that. Is it frustrating? Yes. Do half the people listening to this want to throw something at the television? Yes. But you deserve your governor to tell you what you need to hear and where things are at, not what you want to hear."

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  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.