3 things to know:
More than 675K Minnesotans have received at least one vaccine dose
2 new deaths reported Monday; 611 new cases logged
Test positivity rate is at lowest level since last summer
Updated: 11:53 a.m.
Key COVID-19 metrics in Minnesota continue to show improvement, as the number of state residents who’ve received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine surpassed 675,000.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported two deaths Monday, the lowest since Feb. 1, bringing the seven-day average down slightly to just below 11 deaths per day. The state also logged 611 new confirmed cases.
The test positivity rate also remained flat, at 2.9 percent, which is just above Minnesota’s low record of 2.76 percent on June 20, 2020.
COVID-19 vaccinations are up week over week, leading to a gradual upward trend in the state’s average daily vaccination pace. More than 12 percent of Minnesotans have received at least their first shot of the vaccine, as of data through Saturday.
The increase in vaccinations are overwhelmingly concentrated among older Minnesotans, of whom nearly one-third have received at least one shot.
Just over 4 percent of Minnesota residents of all ages have received both doses to complete their vaccinations.
In total, nearly 915,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the state.
The state is at an all-time high for the number of doses administered within three days of receipt by providers, though the state is just short of its goal of 90 percent of doses within three days.
As of Sunday, Minnesota ranked 24th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s was up from 28th on Saturday. With federal vaccine shipments rising, the pace of vaccinations may increase in the coming days.
About 97 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.
State health officials continue to monitor new virus strains circulating in the United States, which may be more contagious. Officials have warned that they could lead to an increase in cases.
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 89,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 47,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 36,000 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 unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.
People can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
Something worth watching: There’s been an uptick in cases in northwestern Minnesota recently, though it’s unclear why just yet. All other regions of the state have been seeing cases decline.
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 continue to fall from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows Latino people continue to be hit hard.
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.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Thursday also acknowledged the need to ensure that vaccination opportunities be spread equitably.
Malcolm said the state will release data soon regarding vaccinations, race and ethnicity. Officials say they’re trying to improve the quality of data. Per state law, it’s been shared voluntarily, and so may be inconsistent.
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.
St. Cloud VA starts vaccinating essential workers
The St. Cloud VA Health Care System is now offering the COVID-19 vaccine to veterans who are also front-line essential workers.
The St. Cloud VA has been vaccinating its health care workers, long-term care residents and veterans 75 and older. Now, VA officials are scheduling vaccines for enrolled veterans who are front-line essential workers, regardless of age or health condition. They include first responders, teachers, grocery store, postal workers, corrections officers and those who work in food, agriculture, manufacturing and public transit.
J.D. Anderson, chief of pharmacy at the St. Cloud, said they’ve seen strong interest among veterans in getting the vaccine.
“I think we had two no-shows in the last two days, even though we’ve been we’ve had steady below zero temps,” Anderson said. “We have a very hardy group that is very eager to receive vaccination.”
Anderson added that the VA is preparing to move to the next phase, which includes veterans 65 and older, and those with underlying health conditions.
— Kirsti Marohn | MPR News
Walz’s emergency powers extended, again, for another month
DFL Gov. Tim Walz has again extended his emergencies powers to coordinate Minnesota’s response to the pandemic.
The latest extension through March 15 means that Minnesota will have been in a peacetime emergency for at least a year.
Walz said fellow Democrats who control the House have been willing to tackle issues such as a statewide face covering mandate. But he said the Republicans who control the state Senate have refused to act, leaving him no choice but to issue executive orders.
“If I won’t want hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans to be evicted, if I don’t my ability to order PPE and to shift the national guard to give vaccine, all of that would end if the emergency orders that are being used by 49 out of 50 governors are brought back,” the governor said.
Walz first signed an executive order last March that allows him to expedite contracts, mobilize the National Guard and make other unilateral decisions to manage the pandemic. In his latest order, Walz said increased vaccination and recent infection trends leave him with hope that the pandemic is beginning to wind down.
— Brian Bakst and Mark Zdechlik | MPR News
Minnesota playing catch-up to get seniors of color vaccinated: Minnesota is trying to bridge two issues at once — getting as many older people vaccinated as quickly as possible, while also making sure racial and ethnic communities hardest hit by the virus have access to vaccines.
Portrait project highlights community connections during the pandemic: Katie Howie has photographed more than 115 people for her project, “By a Thread: Pandemic Portraits.” She describes the project as a living history because the people she photographs also share thoughts about their lives during the pandemic.
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