Gov. Tim Walz and other officials are speaking now:
Updated 2:25 p.m.
Gov. Tim Walz on Monday detailed a plan to vaccinate 15,000 Twin Cities area teachers, school staff and child care providers this week. He also laid out a plan to fix an online shot signup site that crashed last week as people 65 and older rushed to make appointments for a limited supply of vaccine.
Figuring out a way to ramp up vaccinations is a priority for state health officials. More than a quarter-million residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but that’s less than 5 percent of the population. The state’s used about half its allocated shots so far.
Hoping to speed that process, the governor’s office said Monday the state would set a goal for vaccine providers to administer 90 percent of their vaccine doses within three days of receiving them, and all doses within one week.
The mass vaccination focused on teachers, school staff and child care workers will happen later this week at St. Paul’s RiverCentre. It’s meant for school districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic school groups. Eligible workers need to make appointments through their organizations. No walk-ups will be allowed.
The Health Department last week launched a pilot program opening COVID-19 vaccinations to people 65 and older.
That’s continuing this week, although officials said Monday they’ve tweaked the process. Minnesotans age 65 and older will now have a 24-hour window beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday to register in advance for a chance to get an appointment through random selection rather than first come, first served.
COVID conditions continue to improve
Walz’s remarks came hours after the Health Department released data offering continued optimism on COVID-19 heading into the last workweek of the month.
The department reported 794 confirmed or probable cases of the disease — along with 3 more deaths; 543 people were in the hospital with COVID-19, with 104 needing intensive care as of Thursday.
There are 10,402 active, known cases of the disease, the lowest level since mid-October and down dramatically from late November, when active cases hovered around 50,000. Overall, conditions have improved significantly from late November, early December.
Monday’s data put Minnesota at 455,783 cases in the pandemic. Of those, about 96 percent of people have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,098. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
Cases spread across age groups, regions
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 86,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 45,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 35,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.
It’s of particular concern because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
Caseloads continue to trend down across all regions of the state following a late December, early January blip.
Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.
Caseloads still heaviest among people of color
In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.
Even as new case counts ease from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows people of color continue to be hit hardest.
Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.
Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
MN lawmakers press new COVID relief for business
Minnesota lawmakers are speeding through a bill to prevent businesses from facing additional costs due to COVID-19-related layoffs.
The state Senate unanimously passed a measure Monday that would exclude 2020 from the ratings that determine how much in tax businesses pay into Minnesota’s unemployment fund. The House could vote in the coming days to send the bill to Governor Tim Walz.
Significant layoffs can hurt a company’s rating and drive up its rates. Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said the pandemic and state restrictions left some businesses with no other option. “What we want to make sure is that our employers aren’t penalized for the impacts of the COVID and the executive orders.”
Minnesota has paid out billions of dollars in unemployment aid to hundreds of thousands of sidelined workers. The state is presently borrowing money from the federal government to meet its unemployment benefits costs, but there’s a chance some of that could be forgiven.
The proposed change to the calculations would also affect newer businesses by giving them an industry average that spares them from any coronavirus-related impact.
— Brian Bakst | MPR News
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Gov. Walz preps ‘COVID-19 recovery’ budget for Tuesday release: Gov. Tim Walz will release a $50 billion two-year budget on Tuesday that will focus on where Minnesota goes after a year of turbulence from the COVID-19 pandemic.
State sues Lakeville bar for operating without license: The Minnesota Department of Health has sued the owners of a bar in the southern Twin Cities metro area for serving food and beverages without a license, the state said Saturday. The bar kept operating in December and early January in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s order barring indoor dining at bars and restaurants to slow the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
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