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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Positive trends hold; vaccination effort quickens – Minnesota Public Radio News

Feb 1, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

3 things to know:

  • Positive trends spill into February

  • Worries over new strains remain

  • 35,000 more doses targeted at Minnesotans ages 65 and older

Updated: 1:47 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 trend lines remain encouraging rolling into February. Hospitalizations, caseloads and daily death counts continue to improve, along with the pace of vaccinations.

The state Health Department on Monday reported 8,906 known active cases — the first time since early October the state had fewer that 9,000 active cases and far lower than in late November when the count hovered around 50,000.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

The numbers also continue to look good on hospitalizations — 387 Minnesotans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday, with 92 needing intensive care. ICU cases — a closely watched metric — are at their lowest level in more than four months.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

The state’s recorded 462,528 confirmed or probable cases in the pandemic, including 727 reported Monday. Of those, about 97 percent of people have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Two newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,202. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

The hopeful outlook is tempered now by concerns over new virus strains arriving in the United States. All three known new COVID-19 variants have now been confirmed in the U.S., including a case of the Brazilian strain identified recently in Minnesota.

“There’s still a lot of information that we don’t have about these variants,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Monday as she cautioned the state wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Beyond the new strains, she noted the state is starting to see outbreaks originating from the state easing gathering restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as from youth sports.

“Although our case numbers are down, that doesn’t mean we’re feeling comfortable that everything’s great and we can open up,” Ehresmann said.

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 88,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 46,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

New Minnesota COVID-19 cases by age, adjusted for population

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 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 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 are trending down across all regions of the state following a late December, early January blip.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.

MN counties with the fastest per-capita growth in COVID-19 cases

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.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

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 during the pandemic. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.

Vaccination efforts push ahead

State leaders were challenged early on to get COVID-19 vaccine shots into arms quickly, and took criticism that the process was too slow at the start.

The latest numbers, though, show the upswing in vaccinations well underway.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

Nearly 442,000 Minnesotans received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Saturday, about 8 percent of the state’s population.

While there is not yet enough vaccine to meet the demand, state health officials said the infrastructure in place now will speed vaccinations once more doses are available.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz announced more than 35,000 Minnesotans ages 65 and older will be able to get vaccines this week at community vaccination sites but also at clinics and hospitals.

Minnesota is “increasingly moving the vaccine into communities to meet seniors where they are,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday.

The state will push ahead with some semi-permanent mass vaccination sites along with delivering vaccine supplies through the existing channels of pharmacies, health clinics and hospitals.

A line chart.

Officials continue to caution that the state does not have enough vaccine for everyone who wants it at this point.

Making Minnesotans 65 and older eligible along with educators and health care workers added more than 1.1 million to the priority population, said Ehresmann.

Supplies are increasing, including another 11,000 doses or so weekly from the federal government atop the 60,000 to 65,000 weekly allocation, Ehresmann said. Still, “there is just not enough vaccine for everyone in those groups to be vaccinated all at once.”

State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, says people older than 65 should be getting all of the state’s available doses.

“Every day that goes by that a senior doesn’t get the vaccine is another day their life is at risk,” said Housley, who chairs the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee. “We understand that there’s a limited supply of vaccine doses the state get. And we get that. All the more reason we need to prioritize the vaccines that we do get.”

The state on Monday also launched an online vaccine-finder website to help people track supplies and availability across Minnesota, but it caused a surge in demand for information that inundated some local providers.

Deb Keaveny, a McLeod County pharmacist, said Monday she’s been flooded with calls from people trying to schedule their COVID-19 vaccinations since the new state website went live.

Store operators did not get a heads-up the site was running. That’s a problems since the vaccine isn’t yet flowing to pharmacies like the one she runs.

“When are you getting the vaccine? When can we book an appointment?” she said, ticking off the questions she’s being asked. “I feel tough for the people that are calling us because we don’t have the answers because we didn’t know that was going to happen.”

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.

Top headlines

35K vaccine doses for older Minnesotans this week; permanent sites to open: More than 35,000 Minnesotans ages 65 and older will be able to get COVID-19 vaccines this week at community vaccination sites but also at clinics and hospitals, Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday. The state is also opening up three permanent vaccination sites, in Minneapolis, Duluth and southern Minnesota.

In Mayo ICU, the cleaning routine is the same; it’s the heartache that’s new: Every day, Mayo Clinic’s housekeeping staff works behind the scenes to keep the COVID-19 intensive care unit clean and safe for patients and staff.

Error sends incorrect vaccine appointment messages to thousands of Minnesotans: Thousands of Minnesotans age 65 and older who signed up for the state’s COVID-19 vaccination pilot program received erroneous messages Saturday — messages that raised doubts about upcoming appointments.

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