Updated 1:30 p.m.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to offer a mix of hope and uncertainty. New daily case counts fell below 1,000 for the first time since early October, but that came on very low testing, making it difficult to draw any conclusions about the pandemic’s path.
The death toll, meanwhile, continues to climb.
The state on Tuesday reported 988 newly confirmed or probable cases. The count of known, active cases in Minnesota fell below 13,000 for the first time since late October, part of an overall slowdown in caseloads since their late November, early December peak.
Hospitalization trends have also improved significantly the past two weeks. As of Monday, 966 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 in Minnesota, with 214 needing intensive care.
Overall, thought, the statistics are still distorted by reporting delays from the long holiday weekend, making it hard to say how Minnesota’s COVID-19 outbreak is changing.
State health officials have warned that the improving picture could change dramatically if people don’t stay vigilant. They continue to implore people to wear masks in indoor gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The cases reported Tuesday put Minnesota at 411,110 in the pandemic. Of those, about 96 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The 36 newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 5,196. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
Caseloads spread across age groups
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 78,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 42,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 32,000 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 grandparents and other vulnerable populations.
It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
New cases ebb across Minnesota
Central and western Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases over the past two months, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.
Cases continue to fall statewide, with most regions dipping down to levels before the state’s COVID-19 surge that hit in November and early December.
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 peak a few weeks ago, 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.
Nearly 40K vaccinated so far
Nearly two weeks into Minnesota’s vaccine distribution program, about 38,000 people have received their first shots.
Many hospitals started vaccinating their front-line workers the week of Dec. 21, with a few starting days before that. Long-term care providers started vaccinating residents this week, with nearly 600 given so far.
The state has so far received nearly 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and nearly 95,000 of the Moderna vaccine. That vaccine is mostly being used to inoculate people living and working in skilled nursing facilities.
The state is on track to get 250,000 doses by the end of the year.
After initially saying it would update numbers weekly, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday it will be updating vaccination counts daily.
Developments around the state
State wants masks on youth hockey, hoops players
Minnesota student athletes must wear masks at all practices and games — even during high-exertion sports such as hockey and basketball, state officials said Monday.
There are exceptions for swimmers while they’re in the water, as well as wrestlers, and certain gymnastics and cheerleading routines.
The regulations came as part of the new COVID-19 guidance for youth winter sports. In November, Gov. Tim Walz ordered a “pause” on prep sports as part of a larger effort to minimize public gatherings to stop the disease’s spread.
Under the new guidance, teams can conditionally begin games and scrimmages with other teams starting Jan. 14. Practices, which can start next Monday, may not include more than 25 people.
— Matt Sepic | MPR News
Federal help on the way for jobless Minnesotans
A new federal pandemic relief package signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday will help thousands of unemployed Minnesotans.
Steve Grove, Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development, said more than 300,000 Minnesotans are receiving unemployment. He said more than 100,000 Minnesotans “risked falling out of the system” without the legislation.
The state has distributed more than $9 billion in federal unemployment benefits this year amid the pandemic, Grove said. That’s a record
Grove said a state emergency program will cover a one-week gap in extra pandemic benefits for many unemployed Minnesotans before the the new federal aid begins flowing.
— Dan Gunderson | MPR News
COVID vaccinations ramp up in Minn. long-term care: Staff and residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state began getting their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday, a hopeful sign in an industry hard-hit by the virus.
Trump reluctantly signs COVID aid, sparks fresh fight in GOP: Dropping his objections, President Donald Trump has signed a $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 and annual federal spending package into law. But Congress returns Monday to confront the White House on remaining priorities in a rare end-of-session showdown.
In the ICU and at George Floyd Square, one nurse fights two pandemics: Nurse Jeanette Rupert is hard to keep up with. When she’s not treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU, she’s dispensing medical care at George Floyd Square, just blocks from where she was born and raised. In the turbulence of 2020, Rupert says she’s deepened her appreciation and commitment to her friends, family and community.
Emergency relief fund created for MN backstage professionals: The new Theater Emergency Relief Fund aims to help individuals who work in theater or dance production or design by offering grants of $1,200.
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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