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The burden of COVID-19 on Minnesota hospitals continues to be dramatically lower now when compared with the last two winters.

The latest update on the pandemic in Minnesota showed 426 inpatient hospital beds occupied by people with COVID on Tuesday. A year ago, the state reported nearly 900 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Still, the number has ticked up from earlier this month, when just 332 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported across the state.

Across the HealthPartners system, which includes Regions and Methodist hospitals in the Twin Cities, just 35 patients were hospitalized with COVID on Thursday, said Dr. Mark Sannes, an infectious disease specialist with HealthPartners. Only one of those patients was in the ICU and none required respirators.

"The critical care capacity is much better this season than it has been in the last two seasons," Sannes said, adding that the system's numbers were the lowest they've been since fall, before spikes in RSV and influenza. "While the hospitals are still quite full, it is not COVID or influenza that is driving that, at least not now."

Minnesota's COVID death toll is 14,325 and the state has the 12th-lowest COVID death rate among U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though it's too early to rule out another spike in influenza, Sannes said, the worst of the season may have come months ago, when flu-related hospitalizations reached nearly 600 per week in November.

Just 10 flu-related hospitalizations were reported in the state in the week ending Feb. 11, according to the state's weekly report.