Jan. 30 update on COVID-19 in MN: Trends look good, but new strains worrisome

A person in army uniform holds a thermometer to a man's forehead.
Minnesota Army National Guard Specialist Frederick Stephens takes Wayzata fifth grade teacher Kyle Moody's temperature before Moody gets his first vaccine dose in St. Paul at a COVID-19 vaccine pilot site at Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Updated: 4:55 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 picture continues to brighten heading into February. The numbers are staying mostly good, and the pace of vaccinations has accelerated the past few days.

Active COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are down 80 percent from their late November peak. Intensive care cases are at a four-month low. The percentage of tests coming back positive for the disease has receded to levels not seen since early July.

At the same time, though, some key experts looking at the new strains of the virus surfacing here and across the country are starting to warn the state isn’t out of the woods yet.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,187 deaths (19 new)

  • 460,819 positive cases (1,087 new), 444,782 off isolation (96 percent)

  • 6.5 million tests, 3.3 million Minnesotans tested (about 56 percent of the population)

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

  • 6.9 percent of Minnesotans vaccinated with at least one dose

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Nineteen newly reported deaths on Saturday raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,187. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

Also on Saturday, the health department reported that erroneous emails and text messages were sent to thousands of Minnesotans age 65 and older who signed up for the state's COVID-19 vaccination pilot program. The messages raised doubts about upcoming appointments — but state officials said they were sent by mistake by a vendor. Find more details here.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

The generally positive outlook for COVID stats is being tempered now by concerns of 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 this week in Minnesota.

That has some experts worried about a looming spike in cases.

“These new variants we're seeing, these mutated viruses, are much more infectious and do actually produce much more serious illness. And I anticipate over the next six to 14 weeks, the darkest days of this pandemic are going to occur,” Michael Osterholm, head of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told MPR News on Friday.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

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 87,000 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 more than 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 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.

Vaccine pace quickening

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

More than 380,000 Minnesotans received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday, about 6.9 percent of the state’s population.

The climb in vaccinations is encouraging news in what’s been a hopeful two weeks in the pandemic. Still, vaccine demand continues to far outpace supply.

Touring a vaccination clinic Thursday in Brooklyn Center, Minn., Gov. Tim Walz said the state is in line to get a 16 percent increase in vaccine shipments from the federal government, allowing Minnesota officials to plan weeks, not days, ahead.

With COVID-19 conditions improving now and vaccinations picking up, “this is a golden opportunity” to keep caseloads and hospitalizations down, he told reporters, adding, “we’re starting to win that fight a little bit.”

The governor said he's hopeful most Minnesotans like him, who aren’t in a priority group for a COVID-19 shot, can get one in March or April. “I told my team I want it by the opening day of baseball season,” he said Thursday.

Opening day for the Minnesota Twins is April 1. The home opener is set for April 8.

Top headlines

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.

Michael Osterholm on COVID variants — ‘we need to understand what's coming’: Coronavirus cases are falling and vaccination numbers are rising. That's good news, right? Yes, but COVID-19 strains that are believed to be more transmissible have public health experts warning about a possible new surge in cases. MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota. He also served on the Biden transition coronavirus advisory board.

Bloomington schools shutter classrooms again after bus drivers test positive for COVID: Just 10 days after bringing some students back for in-person learning, an outbreak of COVID-19 among transportation workers has forced Bloomington Public Schools to return to distance learning until mid-February. At least eight people in the district’s transportation department have been infected.

Through grief, Hmong families torn between honoring the dead, keeping loved ones safe during COVID: In normal times, relatives and friends would gather for days or weeks, cooking side by side and consoling one another as part of the funeral proceedings. But with COVID-19 ravaging through the community, they’re left wrestling with how to plan a funeral that won’t be as big and lavish as they imagined.

From golden tickets to ‘Hunger Games’: Minnesota’s race to vaccinate educators and child care workers is now in its second week. The launch has successfully gotten shots into the arms of thousands of people, but it’s just a fraction of the state’s teaching force. And it’s not been without its share of mishap.

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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