3 things to know:
Vaccination pace rebounds but still below prior week
Hospitalizations down to September levels
Officials caution against attending big Super Bowl parties
Updated 11:45 a.m.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to show the state holding its own in a hopeful way, especially on hospitalizations. The pace of vaccination, though, remains frustrating with the trend line flattening.
After an early-week stumble, vaccination counts rebounded in Friday’s report, but they aren’t yet matching levels from last week, suggesting that earlier vigorous pace may have been the exception.
Friday’s Health Department data showed disease trends angling in the right direction despite an uptick in active caseloads. Known, active cases stand at 9,027, similar to early October levels and still down significantly from around 50,000 in late November.
Counts also continue to look good on hospitalizations — 362 Minnesotans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, with 82 needing intensive care. ICU cases remain at levels not seen since September.
Twenty-two newly reported deaths Wednesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,273. 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 466,224 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 1,054 reported Friday. 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 officials continue to caution that the pandemic is not over yet, noting the new virus strains arriving in the United States, including including two cases of the Brazilian strain and 16 of the U.K. variant in Minnesota.
They’re also trying to dissuade people from attending big Super Bowl gatherings this Sunday given the ongoing worries about spreading the virus.
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 89,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 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.
Caseloads are trending down across all regions of the state following a late December, early January blip.
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 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.
Vaccinations climb; pace frustrates
After an early week stumble, vaccination counts were better Thursday, topping 30,000. But it still fell short of the prior week’s surge.
More than 497,000 Minnesotans received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, about 9 percent of the state’s population. About 2.5 percent had completed a full vaccine series.
Concerns continue to simmer over the speed of the effort — and the confusion it’s generated as people struggle to find out when and where they can get a shot.
Minnesota is on a pace to be able to vaccinate 80 percent of adults by September.
Earlier this week, though, officials said it could take up to four months to vaccinate Minnesotans 65 and older if the feds don’t deliver more vaccine faster; about 20 percent of that population has received at least their first dose.
State public health leaders have been pleading for patience over the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Minnesota’s getting some 84,000 more doses next week, which will be shared among tribal nations, people over age 65, educators, group home residents and others.
Nearly half will go to health care workers who have yet to be vaccinated even though they’re in a high-priority category, said state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.
She estimated about 80,000 state health care workers have yet to be vaccinated.
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.
High School League sets tentative winter state tournament dates
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors on Thursday approved a tentative plan for winter state tournaments, with many of those events being held several weeks later than usual to end the pandemic-affected season.
Among the changes, state quarterfinals for high school hockey and basketball will take place in the last week of March.
Boys and girls hockey semifinals and championship games will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on April 1-3. Boys and girls basketball semifinals and title games will be played at Target Center in Minneapolis April 6-10.
Among other winter sports and activities:
State alpine and Nordic skiing meets are now set for March 10 and 12 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Dance state competitions are March 12-13 at Edina High School.
Boys swimming and diving state meet is March 18-20 at the University of Minnesota.
Wrestling state tournament is March 25-27 at a site to be determined.
Gymnastics state meet is March 26-27 at Champlin Park High School.
The tournament dates are subject to change. You can find more information here.
— MPR News Staff
Vaccination weekend set for Minneapolis Convention Center
The state of Minnesota has launched a new, large-scale vaccination site at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The state expects to vaccinate 9,500 people, including people 65 and older, teachers and child care providers through the weekend. Additional sites are opening in Duluth and southern Minnesota in coming days, and will remain open indefinitely.
The sites will be operated by Vault Health, which runs the state’s saliva testing program.
Dan Feehan, a former Minnesota congressional candidate, is now leading Vault’s national vaccine program, including in Minnesota.
“This is incredibly exciting. People are waiting and people are looking for an opportunity like this: Not just to get their vaccination, but to get it easily, efficiently and at a high enough throughput so we can get to a lot more people,” he said.
Vault Health randomly drew names for appointments from a list of people who preregistered for slots during the initial rollout of the vaccine pilot program in January, Feehan said.
— Catharine Richert | MPR News
Amid huge demand, food shelves urge people to seek help: One of the nation’s largest food banks — Minnesota-based Second Harvest Heartland — says it’s seeing huge demand for its services amid the pandemic. And it’s urging people in need to go to a food shelf.
Far-flung actors, crew unite for Theater Mu’s new show: After months of planning and with pandemic restrictions still in place, Theater Mu in St. Paul will launch its mainstage season on Saturday with a new production merging theater and film — a play that’s designed for, and speaks to, the times we’re living in.
Mpls. skyway business owners worried about slow return when COVID relents: By one estimate, 3 out of 5 skyway-level businesses have closed, at least temporarily. Other restaurant and shop owners are hanging on in the hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will spark a rebound.
Wild 4th NHL team shut down for COVID-19 reasons: The Wild now have six players on the league’s COVID-19 list and had their next four games postponed. Colorado, which most recently played Minnesota, had one player added.
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