March 16 update on COVID-19 in MN: Vaccination pace stumbles; pandemic data stable

A woman receives a vaccine.
Biz Clark (left) receives her second COVID-19 shot from Sawtooth Mountain Clinic nurse Christine Kunze (right) Feb. 25, 2021, at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais, Minn.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

3 things to know:

  • About 23 percent of Minnesotans with at least 1 vaccine dose; 13 percent with completed vaccinations

  • Most pandemic metrics stable; Carver Co. outbreak concerning

  • State nearing 500,000 total confirmed cases in the pandemic

Updated: 11:49 a.m.

Minnesota officials believe they’re in race now to vaccinate Minnesotans quickly enough to avoid another statewide COVID-19 surge. But the pace of vaccinations continues to struggle for traction.

The Health Department on Tuesday reported about 7,500 new vaccinations, down from more than 20,000 the prior Tuesday and one of the lowest counts over the past month. The seven-day trend is now running just below 40,000 shots daily.

It’s not necessarily a problem as the state expects to see federal vaccine shipments jump in coming weeks. Right now, though, the overall trend is flat to declining following an early March jump.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

Nearly 730,000 people — 13.1 percent of the state’s population — have completed their vaccinations, while more than 1.2 million — nearly 23 percent — have received at least one dose, including more than 75 percent of people age 65 and older.

A line chart.

Officials continue to urge Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease, wearing masks in public gathering spaces and socially distancing.

Graph projecting when most Minnesotans will get vaccinated
Projections by MPR News data reporter David Montgomery.

Pandemic metrics mostly stable; Carver Co. concerns

Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show disease conditions continue to stay mostly stable, although there has been a noticeable rise recently in the number of known, active cases. Sunday saw a one-month high, although the count ticked down on Tuesday to 8,235.

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Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

While the overall trend remains flat and current counts are still very low compared to late November and early December, the increase is notable given the concerns about the rise of the U.K. COVID-19 strain in Minnesota.

Hospitalization rates remain mostly steady at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases: 260 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday with 59 needing intensive care.

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

Two newly reported deaths brought Minnesota’s collective pandemic death toll to 6,749. 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 498,926 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 716 posted Tuesday. 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.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

State public health leaders remain anxious about a Carver County outbreak that includes the very contagious U.K. strain. Twelve people have been hospitalized statewide from that strain; two have died.

“We are very concerned about this (U.K.) variant and its rapid spread. It has the potential to be a setback to our continued and hard-fought progress against the disease,” Dan Huff, an assistant health commissioner, told reporters Monday.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

With more than 250 cases of the U.K. variant confirmed statewide, it has the potential to spread throughout the state unless checked, Huff said. “We’re so close to the light at the end of the tunnel …. but this thing’s not over.”

The state is recommending young people across the state be tested every two weeks for COVID-19, with student athletes tested weekly; officials are also asking everyone in Carver County to get tested.

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 93,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 49,000 among those 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 39,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.

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.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth 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, all parts of Minnesota are in significantly better shape than they were in late November and early December. Some areas are seeing upticks in cases.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

While officials monitor the recent uptick in active cases, overall trends have improved to the point where Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced a rollback of many of the state’s remaining pandemic restrictions. “Normalcy is on the horizon,” Walz said.

Caseloads 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 track well below 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.

Walz has acknowledged that distrust by communities of color has been a problem during the pandemic. Officials have offered up some data on vaccinations broken down by race and ethnicity. The state is expected to update the data weekly.

Health Commissioner Malcolm has said the state is committed to doing more to expand vaccine access to people of color, including getting more doses to community pharmacies, partnering with local groups and deploying mobile vaccination clinics.

Correction (March 16, 2021): An earlier version of this story described 12 hospitalizations and two deaths tied to the U.K. variant as being part of the Carver County COVID-19 outbreak. Those are statewide counts.

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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