Feb. 17 update on COVID-19 in MN: Solid, steady trends; schools OK'd to reopen

A man standing bumps elbows with a person sitting.
Gov. Tim Walz bumps elbows with an educator while visiting Parkview Center Elementary School in Roseville, Minn., on Feb. 1. The governor is expected to announce new guidelines Wednesday on how to bring back more middle and high school students into classrooms.
Evan Frost | MPR News

3 things to know:

  • Hospital admissions, new cases and active caseloads look good

  • Vaccination pace still struggling to take off

  • Governor OKs reopening middle, high schools buildings next week

Updated: 12:02 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers continue to show the pandemic picture brightening — to the point now where Minnesota is prepared to reopen middle and high school buildings to students starting next week.

Overall, Wednesday’s data makes it clear Minnesota remains on the right path. Key trend lines around the disease remain angled in the right direction.

The Health Department on Wednesday reported 783 newly confirmed or probable cases. Known, active cases stayed below 7,000 for the second straight day, the first time that’s happened since late September.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

The seven-day hospital admissions trend for people with COVID-19 has also receded to late September levels. There were 314 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals as of Tuesday, with 54 needing intensive care. ICU cases are at their lowest point since the spring.

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Graph of new ICU and non-ICU COVID-19 hospitalizations

The overall vaccination pace is still trying to take off after falling and then flattening following a late January surge. While it’s ticked up since then, the overall trend line isn’t yet showing a sustained upswing. The state on Wednesday reported nearly 16,000 new vaccinations.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota
Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

About 12.5 percent of Minnesotans had received at least one dose as of Monday, with about 4.4 percent completely vaccinated. About 37 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot.

Officials have been emphasizing over the past weeks that the relatively low flow of vaccine supplies from the federal government is the main problem holding back the pace of vaccinations. There’s data to back that up. On Tuesday, they cautioned that the cold snap now gripping the nation could delay vaccine shipments to Minnesota.

A line chart.

The state is ranked 25th among states currently in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current rate, it would take until October to vaccinate 80 percent of the state’s adults.

Ten reported deaths on Wednesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,390. 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 state’s recorded 475,379 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic. 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.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

“We have clearly made important progress against COVID-19,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters on Tuesday, highlighting the effort to vaccinate teachers. It’s put the state “in a good position to get our kids back to school.”

State health officials continue to monitor new virus strains circulating in the United States, which may be more contagious. Officials have warned that they could lead to an increase in cases.

Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, reaffirmed those concerns on Tuesday, noting that Minnesota’s now confirmed 40 cases of the U.K. strain here. “We want to make sure we’re not giving a foothold to these variants.”

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 90,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 47,000 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 37,000 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.

Regionally, most parts of Minnesota are down significantly from the late November, early December spike as well as a January blip.

There has been an uptick in cases in northwestern Minnesota recently, though it’s unclear why just yet.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

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 continue to fall from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows Latino people continue to be hit hard.

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.

Malcolm on Thursday also acknowledged the need to ensure that vaccination opportunities be spread equitably.

Malcolm said the state will release data soon regarding vaccinations, race and ethnicity. Officials say they’re trying to improve the quality of data. Per state law, it's been shared voluntarily, and so may be inconsistent.

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.

Latest developments

Fargo, N.D. extends mask mandate into late March

The Fargo City Commission extended a mask mandate Wednesday that was set to expire on Thursday.

Local public health officials asked the city to extend the mask mandate, which was first enacted in October.

The first cases of the more contagious U.K. variant of the virus were reported this week in North Dakota.

Fargo police say checks of businesses in recent weeks found high rates of compliance with the mask mandate.

The City Commission will review the mask requirement again on March 22.

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

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EMS workers adapt and persist, amid stress of pandemic: The pandemic has brought new challenges to already strained emergency medical services in Minnesota. Even the most routine calls carry higher risk — and require more preparation — than before the pandemic. Any call could involve a COVID-19 case.

Minnesota students can return to middle, high school buildings Monday: The decision follows new federal protocols on how schools should operate during the pandemic. “It’s time to get our students back in school, and we can do that now safely,” Gov. Tim Walz said.

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