Updated: 11:32 a.m.
Minnesota health officials reported another 37 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, pushing the overall pandemic death toll close to 5,900.
But averaged over the past week, the number of new cases and deaths reported each day continues to decline.
The latest update came a day after Minnesota officials excited about expanding the pool of people eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine got a jolt after learning the federal government doesn’t have the supplies it promised to do the job.
State health leaders on Thursday had given the OK to hospitals and other health care providers to vaccinate a wider group of Minnesotans, including people age 65 and older and those most susceptible to the disease after the Trump administration urged states to immediately expand eligibility.
The feds were believed to have doses stockpiled and ready for release to the states. But the bottom fell out of all those plans Friday.
Federal officials confirmed a Washington Post report that vaccine reserves were gone, making it extremely unlikely that Minnesota or any other state will see its allocation jump anytime soon.
That’s left Minnesota officials angry, and reevaluating their own plans.
“I have been frustrated at times beyond belief, but this one is so far beyond the pale to be almost unimaginable. And I’m going to call it,” Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Friday.
“Where did they go? Who’s going to be prosecuted for this?” Walz asked aloud. “What are the states to do when they’ve been lied to and made all their plans around this?”
The governor said he’s looked into whether Minnesota could buy doses of vaccine directly from the manufacturers rather than wait for federal authorities but added that it would be “super expensive to do it” and it’s not clear that governors even have that power.
About 500,000 doses have been shipped to Minnesota so far to health providers and the federal program for long-term care facility vaccinations, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard website; more than 174,000 Minnesotans have received at least one dose so far.
Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:
5,887 deaths (37 new)
445,047 positive cases (1,529 new), 425,253 off isolation (about 96 percent)
6.1 million tests, 3.1 million people tested (about 55 percent of the population)
4.8 percent seven-day positive test rate (officials find 5 percent or more concerning)
While the improving trends look good following an awful November and December — when new cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiked — public health leaders still don’t believe the state is in the clear. They believe another surge, originating from year-end holiday gatherings, is likely in the coming weeks.
Walz said has said his COVID-19 experts remain worried about a February spike. On Monday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm braced Minnesotans to see daily death and case counts trending higher again.
Active, confirmed case counts are trending up slightly compared to early January.
“We do expect to see cases go back up in Minnesota following the year-end holidays, and potentially just as a result of the winter wearing on and more indoor time and more gatherings,” Malcolm told reporters.
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 85,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 44,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 34,000 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.
A relatively small bump in new cases has been happening across the state.
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.
‘Still in a high-risk situation’
Although the overall conditions have improved significantly in Minnesota over the past two weeks, state public health leaders continue to implore people to wear masks in indoor public gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The state last week said it has confirmed five cases of the new, more-contagious coronavirus variant in the Twin Cities metro area. The variant was first detected in the United Kingdom and has since been confirmed in several other U.S. states. It has not been found to cause more-serious cases of COVID-19.
“While our trends have stabilized, we are still in a high-risk situation, and this variant is a major unknown as to what it will do here,” Malcolm said Thursday.
Developments around the state
Inflammatory illness tied to COVID ID’d in 56 MN kids
A worrisome inflammatory condition believed to be related to COVID-19 has surfaced in 56 Minnesota children since the pandemic began, state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said Thursday.
Minnesota is seeing more cases now than last fall, Lynfield told reporters.
While the count is small — 56 out of more than 72,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed in children ages 19 and younger — the inflammatory condition has disproportionately hit children of color harder. Sixty percent of the Minnesota cases identified were Black or Latino children, Lynfield said.
— MPR News Staff
65 or older? What you need to know about the vaccine: The state says health care providers are now allowed to vaccinate people 65 and older, and those who have underlying health conditions — if they have extra doses. The announcement appears to be the first step in following new federal guidance on who should be next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Drug overdoses spike, stretching help even further: When all the data is in, 2020 is likely to be the deadliest year in American history for drug overdoses. Preliminary federal and state numbers show that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for people who use drugs to stay alive and healthy. It’s also taxing the advocates and organizations who work to keep them safe.
Minn. lawmakers to Walz — where are the shots? Minnesota legislators are pressing state officials to speed up Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccinations. Gov. Tim Walz says kinks in the federally managed distribution system are the main holdup.
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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