3 things to know:
Hospital admissions, new cases and active caseloads look good
Vaccinations still looking for consistent upswing
About 36 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older with at least one dose
State public health leaders are expected to brief reporters at 2 p.m.
Updated 11:55 a.m.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers continue to show pandemic conditions improving, although the vaccination pace is still struggling to rebound.
Key trend lines around the disease remain angled in the right direction. The Health Department on Tuesday reported 456 newly confirmed or probable cases while known, active cases slipped below 7,000. Both figures fell to their lowest levels since late September.
The seven-day hospital admissions trend for people with COVID-19 has also receded to late September levels. There were 315 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals as of Monday, with 57 needing intensive care. ICU cases are at their lowest point since the spring.
The overall vaccination pace is still trying to regain traction after falling and then flattening following a late January surge. While the overall trend line ticked up, the state on Tuesday reported about 12,400 new vaccinations — significantly below daily counts over the past week.
About 12.3 percent of Minnesotans had received at least one dose as of Sunday, with about 4.3 percent completely vaccinated. About 36 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot.
Officials have been emphasizing over the past weeks that the relatively low flow of vaccine supplies from the federal government is the main problem holding back the pace of vaccinations. There’s data to back that up.
As of Sunday, though, the state was ranked 24th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current rate, it would take until September to vaccinate 80 percent of the state’s adults.
Hoping to speed the effort, the Health Department has opened mass vaccination sites in the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth and posted information on its online vaccine finder.
Tuesday did mark the first time the state hit its goal of administering 90 percent of available vaccines within three days of reaching providers.
Two reported deaths on Tuesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,380. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
The state’s recorded 474,621 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic. About 97 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point 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 — nearly 90,000 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.
Canada tightens COVID border curbs
Canada is stepping up border restrictions in the face of the coronavirus and is now requiring people driving into the country to present a negative COVID-19 test.
Canada closed its borders to nonessential travel last March, and has repeatedly extended the restrictions.As of this week, Canadian authorities are adding new restrictions: land entry requires travelers to show a negative COVID-19 PCR molecular test less than 72 hours old — or a positive test at least two weeks old and taken with in the last 90 days.
Air travelers will require the same documentation starting next week.And as of next week, with some exceptions, all travelers will have to take a COVID-19 test on arrival and file a plan for a mandatory two-week quarantine with Canadian authorities, although testing won’t be available at any of the crossings from Minnesota.
The CBC reports that the new restrictions still do not apply to commercial truckers driving in from the U.S., at least for now.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
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 schools plan to continue virtual learning options in fall 2021: Many Minnesota students, parents and school leaders are hoping the next school year will look a lot more normal. But the pandemic has transformed the face of education and some schools are planning to keep virtual learning as an option come fall.
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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