Updated: 11:41 a.m.
3 things to know:
Record single-day increase in vaccinations
Walz: Shots for all Minnesotans by summer
Officials: Kids, families should now get tested every 2 weeks
Minnesota health officials are reporting a record single-day increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, with Saturday’s update showing more than 56,000 additional doses administered to state residents.
The previous record daily high was just over 44,000.
The increase was driven by a surge in initial doses of the two-shot vaccination regimen, as weather-delayed vaccine finally made its way to Minnesota and was distributed around the state.
Averaged over the past week, Minnesota is averaging just under 30,000 vaccinations a day — the highest that number has been since Feb. 2.
Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:
6,475 deaths (13 new)
483,790 positive cases (826 new), 469,959 off isolation (97 percent)
7.3 million tests, 3.5 million Minnesotans tested (about 61 percent of the population)
15 percent of Minnesotans vaccinated with at least one dose
Minnesota has now administered 1,269,572 COVID vaccine doses.
The bump in vaccinations came after Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday said every Minnesotan should be able to get a shot by the summer. While the counts reported Friday and Saturday are encouraging, the trend line shows no signs yet of a surge similar to the one in late January and early February.
Minnesota currently ranks 19th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Uptick in cases but metrics relatively stable
Vaccination concerns aside, Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show the state holding fairly steady, although there has been an uptick in new and active cases.
Hospitalization rates remain encouraging and remain at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases. There were 263 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals as of Thursday; 60 patients needed intensive care.
Thirteen newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,475. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
The state’s recorded 483,790 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 826 reported Friday. About 97 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.
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 91,000 since the pandemic began, including 48,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
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, although it’s unclear why.
Earlier this week, Dan Huff, an assistant state health commissioner, expressed concern about the uptick seen in the northwest and west-central regions, saying it showed the state needed to remain vigilant against spread.
“The vaccines are coming and continue to increase, and that is fantastic news, but we’re not there yet,” he said, adding, that the state doesn’t have enough people vaccinated “to stop the next wave.”
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.
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 said 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 in the coming week.
Families with kids urged to test every 2 weeks
With kids increasingly returning to school buildings and sports, Minnesota public health officials are urging Minnesota families with children to get tested every two weeks for COVID-19 now until the end of the school year.
While it’s not a requirement, the effort will help protect progress the state’s making to limit the spread of the virus, Huff told reporters Wednesday.
Families can use the state’s testing at home program, go to a community testing site or work with their own health provider, Huff said.
“We’re not asking schools or youth organizations to provide this testing,” he added. “This is a recommendation for all youth, in-person, returning to school, youth sports, extracurricular activities.”
Huff noted that the state’s teacher testing shows a very low level of COVID-19 in that population to date. Huff said some 72,000 educators have been tested with only a .35 percent positive test rate. Officials find a 5 percent rate as cause for concern.
Walz on Thursday said 88 percent of the state’s public school districts and charter schools are offering some in-person learning now.
‘We can’t do it fast enough’
Walz laid out plans Thursday to get COVID-19 shots into the arms of every Minnesotan who wants one by the summer while keeping the state’s short-term focus on residents 65 and older. He even suggested the Minnesota State Fair was possible this year.
"The finish line's there. Let's finish this thing,” Walz said in remarks that were mostly upbeat about the state’s current circumstances on the one-year anniversary of the first Minnesotan showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Walz said the state wouldn’t expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines until at least 70 percent of residents age 65 and older get a first dose — a threshold officials expect to reach by the end of March.
Once that threshold has been met, Minnesota will open vaccinations to others based on underlying health conditions and workplace exposure risk, including some 45,000 employees working at Minnesota food processing plants.
The governor and other officials indicated that their timeline was conservative and expressed hope that it would move faster as more supplies — including the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine now under federal review — become available.
"We can't do it fast enough. Every single governor in this country is hearing the same things,” Walz said of vaccinations. “It's simply a supply and demand issue, folks There's not enough vaccines still at this point in time.”
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
New U of Minn. center to research anti-racism in public health
A new center at the University of Minnesota will focus on anti-racism research in public health.
The center’s launch was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement that followed the police killing of George Floyd. Founding director Rachel Hardeman said she hopes the center will strengthen public health education when it comes to racial disparities.
As a Black woman with deep roots in Minnesota, Hardeman said she was passionate about creating a vision that would engage communities in the research and come up with solutions.
"Certainly it's not the norm to go into community and say ‘you tell me what we should be asking, you tell me what needs to be done, what do you need to feel safe?’” Hardeman said, “and so much of the knowledge and so much of the solutions are out there but we just haven't asked the right people."
The university received a $5 million donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to launch the center.
— Riham Feshir | MPR News
St. Paul middle, high schools set to reopen April 14
The St. Paul public schools will resume in-person learning at middle school and high school buildings on April 14, following spring break and a two-day planning session for staff.
Students who want to continue distance learning will be able to do so if they choose.
Most of these students haven't been in the classroom since the pandemic closed school buildings nearly a year ago.
The Minneapolis public school system will welcome back special education students to in-person classes on March 22. On April 12, high school students will be able to return. Middle school students will return the week of April 19.
— Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News
Front-line food plant workers up next for COVID-19 vaccine: Workers at Minnesota’s food processing plants — hit hard by coronavirus early in the pandemic — will be among those next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first 5 weeks in office: On Thursday, President Joe Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation's governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.
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