Feb. 23 update on COVID-19 in MN: Vaccine pace stays flat; daily deaths drop

Two people sitting at a table.
CentraCare Health nurse Jessica Lund preps Sister Carleen Schomer of the Order of St. Benedict before administering the COVID-19 vaccination shot earlier this month at Saint Benedict's Monastery.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

3 things to know:

  • Vaccination pace wobbly; weather-delayed doses should help

  • Pandemic metrics good — only two deaths reported in two days

  • AARP: Older Minnesotans “demoralized” by vaccination process

Updated: 5:35 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccination effort is still searching for traction following a mild upswing. Officials, though, are anticipating a busy week as some 45,000 weather-delayed shots make their way into the state atop the expected 100,000 doses from the feds.

The state Health Department on Tuesday reported about 7,400 new vaccinations, the lowest daily count in two weeks. Only about 2,300 more Minnesotans received their first shot.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

Public health leaders say the cold snap that gripped the nation recently delayed vaccine shipments to Minnesota, and that’s depressing vaccination counts in the short-term.

“The good news is that we’re seeing a return to normal on that front,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Monday. “We hope to be back to normal operations and scheduling in the next week or so.”

A line chart.

About 13.7 percent of Minnesotans had received at least one dose as of the Tuesday update, with about 6.5 percent completely vaccinated.

Nearly 42 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot, but people in that age group are still struggling to navigate the state’s appointment system to get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, AARP Minnesota called for “ongoing improvements” to streamline Minnesota’s vaccination process. “We’ve heard from our members, and too many are frustrated and confused,” the organization said in a letter to Gov. Tim Walz.

Anecdotal stories from older Minnesotans show people “demoralized when their efforts to secure a vaccine come up empty,” AARP said.

Walz on Tuesday told reporters he was “very optimistic” that in the next couple of weeks, the state will be able to give residents a better sense of when they’ll be vaccinated based on age and health conditions.

A bar graph.

Minnesota is currently ranked 17th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota had been as low as 25th on that ranking.

Pandemic metrics still solid

Vaccination questions aside, Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show the state continuing on a steady, positive path.

Tuesday marked two consecutive days with only one reported death. It’s the first time since Minnesota’s second recorded death on March 26 that the state has reported one or fewer COVID-19 deaths two days in a row.

Hospitalization rates are encouraging. There were 269 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals as of Monday. The number needing intensive care ticked up to 54 but continues to hover around levels from the spring.

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

Known, active cases came in at about 6,500. The overall trend remains steady at late September levels.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

One newly reported death raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,434. 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 has recorded 480,091 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 513 reported Tuesday. 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

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 90,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 48,000 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 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.

Distrust by communities of color “is the thing that has plagued us for some time,” Walz told reporters Tuesday at a briefing promoting vaccinations for people of color.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that it’s been a “real problem” not having data broken down by race and ethnicity but that the state may have data to share by next week.

‘Where we all want to go’

State health officials continue to remind Minnesotans that the pandemic is not over yet and that new virus strains circulating in the United States may be more contagious.

Ehresmann on Monday also warned that outbreaks are continuing, noting 23 in January tied to gyms, 39 linked to bars and restaurants and 85 linked to sports.

“There is a risk in any indoor settings that bring people from different households together,” she said, urging Minnesotans to continue to wear masks in indoor gathering spaces, socially distance and otherwise stay vigilant against the disease’s spread.

State officials didn’t have a specific response Monday to news that the Minnesota Twins are proposing to allow 10,000 fans at Target Field when the baseball season starts in early April.

“Directionally, it’s where we all want to go,” Malcolm said Monday, adding that if Minnesotans keep working to stem the spread and vaccinations continue to ramp up, “we are truly optimistic about the prospect of fans getting into sports venues in 2021.”

Walz indicated essentially the same thing on Tuesday, saying it’s “possible and probable” that Target Field could bring some fans back and alluded to the possibility of a 2021 State Fair, which was canceled last year amid fears it would be a COVID-19 superspreader event.

Correction (March 5, 2021): An earlier version of this story described the total vaccinations as a percentage of Minnesota’s 16 and older population. The percentage includes the entire population.

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.

Developments from around the state

Hy-Vee pharmacies join vaccination effort

Hy-Vee pharmacies in Minnesota are joining Walmart and Thrifty White in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, Gov. Tim Walz’s office said Monday.

Hy-Vee will administer more than 10,000 doses of the vaccine this week to adults 65 years of age and older at more than 30 Hy-Vee sites in the state, the governor’s office said in a statement.

— MPR News Staff

Klobuchar speaks out about vaccine misinformation

Minnesota Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined a local physician and health care administrator on Sunday in the Twin Cities to urge people to accept the science behind COVID-19 vaccines.

Klobuchar said that as more people become eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus, a big challenge will be convincing them to get the protection to help bring the pandemic under control.

She said social media companies, including Facebook, need to do a better job combating falsehoods being circulated to scare people away from the vaccines.

— Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Top headlines

For older Minnesotans, whether they're vaccinated has a lot to do with where they live: In some rural Minnesota counties, older residents are more than twice as likely to have gotten at least a first dose of the vaccine than if they live in most parts of the Twin Cities metro area. But even in rural parts of the state, there are significant differences from county to county.

U.S. COVID-19 death toll reaches 500,000: The disease has killed at least 100,000 people in the past five weeks and was the leading cause of death in the country in January, ahead of heart disease, cancer and other ailments, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. President Joe Biden has ordered flags on all federal buildings lowered to half-staff for five days.

Mixed opinions on how to allocate Biden aid money: President Joe Biden and other Democrats want the federal government to send most Americans another $1,400 to help them weather the pandemic. But some economists, and even some people set to get the cash, say a better approach would be to target those most in need.

Isolated and at risk, veterans hope COVID vaccine brings return to normalcy: About half of U.S. veterans are over the age of 65 and many have underlying health complications, making them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

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