In Minnesota and across the U.S., virus death toll keeps climbing

As of Monday morning, 143 Minnesotans had died from COVID-19, with more than half of those fatalities occurring since April 14. The virus has now claimed more lives in the U.S. than anywhere in the world, including an estimated 15,000 in the last week alone. Some public health experts believe the limited availability of testing and challenges in identifying a cause of death may be preventing an accurate count of the virus' toll.

Minnesota's virus deaths rise steadily

The state's first death, a Ramsey County resident in their 80s, was reported a month ago. Since then, the virus-related death toll has risen at a steady rate, reaching 18 of Minnesota's 87 counties. The two largest single-day death totals — 17 and 13 — have been reported over the past four days.

Hennepin County, Minnesota's most populous county, leads the the state with 80 virus-related fatalities. Ramsey County, St. Louis County and Winona County have seen 10 deaths each, and Winona County officials have confirmed that all 10 of its deaths are linked to long-term congregate-living facilities.

Most of the state's virus-related deaths have been elderly with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension and other chronic health conditions. The median age of those who have died is 84.

Last week, the Star Tribune examined death certificate records for the first 63 Minnesota deaths attributed to COVID-19, and 98.5% had pre-existing conditions, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.

New York City, Detroit and Chicago areas have highest U.S. death tolls

The virus-related death totals in New York City continue to dwarf all counties and major cities in the U.S. with more than 9,700 deaths. Preliminary data released by the city last week reveal the virus is killing black and Latino people at twice the rate of white people.

Western Long Island's Nassau County, which borders the eastern edge of New York City's Queens borough, leads all national counties with nearly 1,600 reported deaths.

The virus has also exacted a steep toll in the Upper Midwest. With close to 1,100 reported deaths, Michigan's Wayne County — which includes the Detroit metro area — accounts for the most deaths in the U.S. outside of New York state, followed by Cook County in Illinois, which includes Chicago and surrounding areas, with nearly 900 deaths.

U.S. leads in total deaths, though death rates in Europe are more stark

According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the U.S. has reported at least 17,000 more deaths than Italy, and has more deaths than Spain and France combined.

However, compared to the U.S., the death rate is much higher in parts of Europe, where some countries were slow to adopt social distancing measures. Virus-related death rates in Spain and Italy are nearly four times the U.S.