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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Virus variant arrives in Minnesota – Minnesota Public Radio News

Jan 11, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Minnesota health officials had been watching for signs that a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus had entered the state — and over the weekend, they received confirmation.

The Health Department reported late Saturday that five people in the Twin Cities metro area had contracted the variant — and that it likely was more widespread across the state.

“We were expecting to find the virus (variant) in Minnesota. Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations,” state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said in a news release. “While it is thought to be more easily spread from one person to another, it has not been found to cause more serious disease.”

Preliminary indications are that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the coronavirus variant, which emerged last fall in the United Kingdom.

It had been confirmed in at least eight other states before the cases were found in Minnesota.

Notably, health officials said the Minnesota cases had an onset of symptoms dating as far back as mid-December — meaning the variant has been circulating for some time.

New COVID-19 cases in Minnesota by sample date

New COVID-19 cases in Minnesota by sample date

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Health officials said it’s too soon to know how the variant may affect the course of the pandemic in Minnesota — but they stressed that no matter what variants are circulating in the state, the familiar safety measures of wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing can help slow their spread.

The news came as Minnesota bars and restaurants are allowed to offer indoor dining again with limits, starting Monday, as state pandemic restrictions are scaled back. Movie theaters, museums and other entertainment venues can also reopen after being closed since mid-November.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

Meanwhile the state reported 87 more COVID-19 deaths over the weekend, with 4,654 additional cases.

New hospital admissions fell to their lowest level in more than two months on Sunday.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics from Sunday:

  • 5,707 deaths (44 new)

  • 436,572 positive cases (2,165 new), 414,756 off isolation (95 percent)

  • 5.9 million tests, 3.1 million people tested (about 60 percent of the population)

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

Health officials said Sunday that 132,280 Minnesotans have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 400,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to Minnesota since mid-December, but health officials warn it will take through the end of January to vaccinate those designated in phase 1A of the vaccine rollout.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day
Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

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 83,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 44,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

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

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

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 33,000 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.

New cases spread across Minnesota, not just one region

The minor bump in new cases is happening across the state, not just in one particular region. Both the Twin Cities metro and rural parts of the state have seen reported cases rise.

All regions are seeing an average of around 50 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, with northwestern Minnesota showing the lowest rate of new diagnoses.

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

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

David H. Montgomery | MPR News

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.


Developments around the state

Minnesota tweaks phone alert system that tracks COVID

Minnesota is making some changes to the phone alert system it uses to help track COVID-19.

The change applies to many users of Apple’s iPhone. The state’s information technology agency, MNIT, said this weekend that users with newer operating systems will get a prompt that allows them to turn on exposure notifications, without using the separate COVID-19 app. It’s part of technology widely in use already, developed by Apple and Google, that can be incorporated into a phone’s operating system.

The service has all the same features as the app, using Bluetooth technology and randomly assigned numbers to detect others in close proximity, and later share anonymously if either party reports a positive COVID-19 test. The new version, like the app itself, does not collect individual information or track locations.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

10th Minnesota state prison inmate dies after COVID diagnosis

An inmate at the Minnesota prison in Faribault died Friday night at a Minneapolis hospital. Department of Corrections officials said he recently was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The 57-year-old man is the 10th COVID-related death of an inmate in the state prison system, and the sixth from the Faribault prison. The man’s name was not released.

Corrections officials said late Friday that three other inmates who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were in critical condition.

More than 10 percent of the nearly 1,700 inmates in the Faribault prison were positive for COVID-19 as of Friday.

Corrections officials said they’ve started to vaccinate prison health-care staff as well as inmates who are in long-term care settings, following state and federal vaccination guidelines.

— MPR News staff


Top headlines

Minnesota health officials confirm five cases of coronavirus variant in Twin Cities: The Health Department said the five cases come from four different counties in the metro area — Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota and Carver. But the variant was found by sampling recent COVID specimens, and health officials say that means there likely are cases in other counties, too — so Minnesotans should assume the variant is circulating among coronavirus cases in their community.


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.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.

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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Cases jump; curbs eased for long-term care visits – Minnesota Public Radio News

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