‘COVID Emergency’ is over, but worries rise over loss of health insurance and mental health among Minnesota’s youngest

The officially declared national public health emergency related to COVID-19 has been over for two weeks now. There have been some risks associated with canceling the emergency — including the end of mandates for health insurers to reimburse in-home COVID tests, changes to how vaccines are paid for, and the loss of automatically continued Medicaid coverage for those who qualified during the pandemic. .

The potential loss of health insurance is a particular concern. Here in Minnesota, the Department of Health has mounted a campaign to keep those eligible for public health insurance enrolled and is publishing a dashboard to help track progress.

According to the panel, nearly 1.5 million Minnesotans need to renew their state-sponsored health insurance over the next two years. So far in April and May, about two percent of those up for renewal have lost coverage. If this rate continues over the next two years, approximately 30,000 Minnesotans could lose coverage. Some of these will undoubtedly gain employee-sponsored coverage, but the issue deserves continued attention.

Among the other threats to the end of the public health emergency is the continued erosion of timely data. Here in Minnesota, we are still receiving relatively timely hospitalization and wastewater data, and so far these trends continue to point in the direction of diminishing COVID threats. There are some notable exceptions.

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Two weeks ago, we shared that Minnesota’s anxiety and depression rates remain high, even when they are low relative to the country as a whole. This week, we dig deeper to show the alarmingly high rates among Minnesota’s youth, as well as those who identify as transgender.

COVID-19 hospitalizations drop again

The daily average of admissions for COVID-19 in the week ended May 18 reached a low not seen since the beginning of the pandemic: 10, including eight in regular hospital beds and two in intensive care units. This follows a multi-week trend of declining hospitalizations for COVID-19. (See the longer trend here.)

During the week ended March 18, Minnesota hit an all-time low since the start of the pandemic: an average of just 10 COVID-19 admissions per day, including two in intensive care units and 8 in regular hospital beds.

David H. Montgomery

Health department data also shows that officially reported cases have dropped below 100 for the first time since the start of the pandemic — but official reports leave out at-home testing as well as asymptomatic cases.

In the most recent week for which the health department reports reliable COVID-19 mortality data, the week ending May 4, there was an average of three COVID-19 deaths per day. While every death is a tragedy, this corresponds to a low last seen in June 2022. Notably, health department data shows a rare recent zero death day from COVID on April 28.

COVID levels in wastewater remain low and declining (with one possible exception)

The most timely wastewater report from the state, from the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota Genomic Center, shows yet another decline in COVID-19 levels. For the week ending May 21, they are reporting “total viral RNA [COVID-19] load entering the Metro Plant decreased 36% last week compared to the week before. Load is now 90% lower than mid-February and lower than since mid-March 2022.”

COVID levels in metropolitan wastewater

In the week ended May 21, COVID-19 levels dropped by 36% compared to the previous week.

David H. Montgomery

The parallel analysis of statewide wastewater by the University of Minnesota, which yesterday published data finalized through May 14, also shows low and declining levels of COVID-19 in most of the state.

The big exception is in the Southeast region of the study, where COVID levels have increased by nearly 600% in the past month. When asked about this spike, a spokesperson for the University of Minnesota Wastewater Surveillance team responded, “There was a large spike at one of the treatment plants, which has occurred before and is not unique to a specific location. The Wastewater Surveillance Team will monitor the next point in time to determine if this is a trend or not. They have already seen big spikes with an equally quick return to lows.”

Indeed, the spike reflects elevated measurements on May 7th and 10th, followed by a more in-range measurement for the region on May 14th. in COVID-19 activities in that region.

Very high rates of anxiety and depression among transgender adults as well as young adults in Minnesota and the US

This week, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a warning about the effects of social media on mental health, particularly among young people.

While social media can offer benefits such as finding supportive communities, being more connected with friends, and serving as a creative outlet, there are also risks. Children ages 12 to 15 who spend more than three hours a day on social media have twice the risk of mental health problems, according to recent research cited by the Surgeon General’s Report. This amount of social media use is not uncommon – in fact, the average for teens according to another recent study was 3.5 hours of social media use per day.

Specific causes of mental health effects from social media use include perpetuating body dissatisfaction and widening social comparisons, especially among girls. Hate-based content is another cause.

The report follows another recent report related to Surgeon General’s mental health, which focused on what he called the epidemic of loneliness and isolation. That report mentions that while social media and technology can provide much-needed resources in some ways – such as online support groups – the damage comes when it displaces personal engagement, monopolizes our attention and reduces the quality of interactions.

Research has found, for example, that using phones during face-to-face interactions between parents and children, and between family and friends, leads to more distraction, poorer quality of conversation, and less enjoyment of time spent together.

So how anxious and depressed are young people in the United States, and specifically in Minnesota? Our analysis of recent data from the US Census Household Pulse Survey shows a solid trend of increasing anxiety and depression as age decreases.

The data doesn’t include people under the age of 18, which this week’s Surgeon General’s report focused on, but for 18- to 24-year-olds, the numbers are staggering. Transgender people in this age group had the highest rates of anxiety and depression among all age and gender groups, at 78%. Young women were second at 56 percent. Within each age group, women have higher rates of anxiety and depression than men, and trans people have reported much higher rates than either women or men.

The same general trends are also true in Minnesota, although the Minnesota transgender sample size is too small to include in our analysis. Women in the 18-24 age group had a 52% rate of anxiety or depression, which is more than eight times the group with the lowest rate – 6.4% for men aged 75 and over.

If you are a parent or caregiver of children, the Surgeon General’s Report offers some suggestions:

  • establish technology-free zones in your home to better foster personal relationships

  • teach kids about responsible online behavior

  • model responsible online behavior

  • report problematic content and activity

To learn more, we’ve compiled a summary of our recent coverage of mental health data in the APM Research Lab.

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