Jan. 23 update on COVID-19 in MN: Trends look good, as vaccination effort continues

A sign reads COVID-19 vaccine check in.
A sign alerts people to the check-in area on Thursday at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Nine COVID-19 vaccine sites opened around the state Thursday for those with appointments as part a pilot program intended to speed vaccinations to people 65 and older as well as educators and child care workers.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Updated: 11:45 a.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to show the state on a hopeful, steady path in January following an awful November and December.

New case growth and hospitalizations have fallen significantly since their peak in late November and early December. Intensive care needs are at four-month lows. Active cases are now below 12,000. Two months ago, they hovered around 50,000.

A big challenge now appears to be the state’s vaccination efforts. Minnesota is struggling to gain traction to get shots into arms. As of Wednesday, just over 4 percent of the state’s population had received a dose and just over 1 percent had a completed vaccination series.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

But Saturday’s update from state health officials showed more than 25,000 additional doses had been administered — the greatest total reported in a single day to date.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,063 deaths (31 new)

  • 453,808 positive cases (1,565 new), 436,544 off isolation (96 percent)

  • 6.3 million tests, 3.2 million people tested (about 56 percent of the population)

  • 4.2 percent seven-day positive test rate (officials find 5 percent or more concerning)

  • 4.1 percent of Minnesotans have at least one vaccine dose (as of Jan. 19)

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota
New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Evidence of the vaccination challenge became clear earlier in the week after the state launched a pilot program intended to speed vaccinations to people 65 and older as well as to educators and child care workers.

The state OK’d 12,000 doses — about 20 percent of Minnesota’s current weekly allocation — to start the pilot. But the online booking process that launched at noon Tuesday quickly became overwhelmed, getting more than 1 million hits by early afternoon.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day
New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day.
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Officials have repeatedly acknowledged they don’t have the vaccine supplies yet to meet the rapidly rising demand.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday said if the Biden administration can reach its goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days, Minnesota will likely get enough vaccine to come close to reaching herd immunity, when a large enough percentage of a population is protected against a disease that it's less likely to spread from person to person.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive
Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

It will take about 3 million doses to get there, Walz said. "At the rate we're at, this is where the frustration lies, it's not fast enough,” the governor said as he visited a north metro rehabilitation center.

Minnesota’s given first doses to nearly 230,000 people across the state, and nearly 60,000 have received their second dose, according to the state's dashboard.

That’s from about 870,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine that have been shipped to Minnesota so far, including the federal program for long-term care facility vaccinations.

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 86,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 45,000 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 35,000 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 continue to trend 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. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.

Latest developments

State wants students, youth athletes tested for COVID

Minnesota health officials on Thursday called for expanded COVID-19 testing, urging K-12 and college students returning to campus, along with kids playing youth sports and anyone else “who regularly interacts with people outside of their family unit or household” be tested.

The move expands the number of people the state says should get a test.

While everyone returning to school should get tested, it’s especially important for people ages 12 to 25 because they’re so active, said Dan Huff, a Minnesota Health Department assistant commissioner.

Getting tested should be a “family affair,” he added, noting (not incorrectly) that “most children do like to spit.”

— MPR News Staff

Top headlines

Older Minnesotans with new COVID vaccine appointments get shots, but others remain frustrated: Vaccinations for people age 65 and older have started at nine sites across Minnesota and continue through Saturday. The pilot program, new this week, was quickly overwhelmed and officials say they are working out some problems ahead of another signup scheduled for Tuesday.

What you need to know about COVID-19 testing for students: State health officials are now urging COVID-19 testing for children and college students who are returning to school. The announcement Thursday formally expands the list of who should seek a coronavirus test, and comes days after thousands of elementary school students began attending school in person for the first time in months.

Minnesota lost nearly 50,000 jobs in December with pandemic rules in place: More than 80 percent of the job losses in December were in the leisure and hospitality sector. But the DEED reported that there are signs that many of December's job losses may be short-term. The agency said a survey of people who lost jobs in December found that just 10 percent said their job loss was permanent.

Why some providers in Minnesota are getting vaccinated and some aren’t: As the state expands who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, some health care providers say they still don’t know how and when they will get theirs. Demographics, vaccine supply and inconsistent rules are adding to the confusion. 

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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