April 3 update on COVID-19 in MN: Record number of vaccinations; case counts climbing

A needle is stuck into a vial.
Nurse Treva Bjerke draws a dose of COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe before administering it to a patient inside of St. Columba Catholic Church in St. Paul on March 5.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

3 things to know

  • 1.7 million+ with at least one dose; record 85,573 vaccinations reported Saturday

  • ICU needs, active cases at highest levels since January; outbreaks in central, northeastern Minnesota, southwest Twin Cities suburbs

  • State makes it a bit easier for care residents to get out for April celebrations together

Updated: April 4, 7:15 a.m.

With Minnesota’s COVID-19 inoculation pace firmly on the right track and the state expecting a big jump in vaccine shipments next week, the pandemic picture seems bright. Adding to the good news: a single-day record 85,573 vaccinations reported in Saturday’s update.

Officials, though, remain increasingly anxious as new cases and hospitalizations climb.

While the state’s push to get shots into arms seems to be humming along now, active COVID-19 cases are climbing; intensive care patient counts are at their highest level in more than two months.

Even as they loosen rules to make it a bit easier for care residents to get out for April celebrations, play cards and eat dinner together, officials remain increasingly concerned over rising caseloads tied to the U.K. COVID-19 variant and to youth sports.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,875 deaths (11 new)

  • 526,267 positive cases; 96 percent off isolation

  • More than 1.7 million people with at least 1 dose; more than 1.1 million completely vaccinated

  • About 82 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older with at least one vaccine dose

State health officials will not release updated COVID-19 statistics on Sunday because of the Easter holiday. Those daily updates will resume on Monday with the release of Saturday’s numbers. Tuesday’s update will include two days’ worth of data, from Sunday and Monday.

The record single-day vaccination total reported Saturday by the Health Department pushed the seven-day trend to nearly 55,000 shots daily — the highest since vaccinations began in late December.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

More than 1.1 million Minnesotans are fully inoculated while more than 1.7 million have received at least one dose, including more than 82 percent of residents age 65 and older.

A line chart.

But as the trend lines move in the right direction on vaccinations, they’re headed the wrong way around the disease. Known, active cases, for instance, have pushed back above 16,000 — the highest count since early January.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Saturday’s data also shows the state’s positive test rate trending for a fifth day above 5 percent — a warning sign about a possible surge.

“We are all tired of this virus and the restrictions it’s brought on, but we need to act now,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state’s epidemiologist, told reporters Thursday as she implored Minnesotans to keep social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public gathering spaces to check the spread of the disease.

“I do feel like we’re at a critical juncture,” she added.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

The good news is that many of the state’s highest-risk residents, including seniors, have received at least one dose already and Minnesota expects to see its federal vaccine supply shipments jump during the month.

A bar graph.

Officials have described the current situation, though, as race against time to vaccinate as many Minnesotans as possible before the COVID-19 variants can get a stronger foothold in the state.

They’ve confirmed nearly 1,000 cases in the state of the highly contagious U.K. strain in recent weeks and believe it’s responsible for the majority of the spread that happening now.

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

Active cases, hospitalizations climbing

Warning lights continue to flash around Minnesota’s COVID-19 disease metrics.

The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with 16,368 active cases as of Saturday’s report — marking 16 consecutive days with active counts above 10,000, a stretch not seen since January.

While still low compared to late November and early December, the rising trend is notable given the worries over the rise of the U.K. COVID-19 strain, which state health officials suspect is driving the current upswing.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Hospitalizations counts are also moving higher. The latest Health Department data showed 439 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals; 112 needed intensive care — the highest ICU needs and hospitalizations since late January.

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

Hospitalization rates for people with COVID-19 are also rising across the state. Dr. Dawn Droder, the chair of hospital services at Essentia Health in Duluth, Minn., says their number of people hospitalized has doubled in the past week or so.

"We are not anywhere near where we peaked in November, but we're cautiously watching these numbers because they're increasing for sure,” Droder said.

She said that the majority of their COVID-19 patients are between the ages of 37 and 65, and that it's likely many younger people with COVID-19 are spreading it to older adults.

Eleven deaths reported on Saturday raised Minnesota’s overall pandemic death toll to 6,875. Among those who’ve died, about 62 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 526,267 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 2,075 posted Saturday — the third straight day with more than 2,000 new cases. That’s another streak not seen in nearly three months.

About 96 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.

Regional hot spots bubble

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. The latest numbers, however, show cases are up in every age group except the oldest, and in almost every region of the state.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Public health leaders continue to keep watch on clusters in the southwest Twin Cities metro area as well as Mankato in southern Minnesota and around Aurora and Ely in the northeast.

Central Minnesota is seeing a rise now in positive COVID-19 cases.

There's been a gradual increase in the number of people hospitalized with the virus, said Dr. George Morris, medical incident commander for CentraCare, the St. Cloud area's main health care provider.

"Over the past month that's gone like from five to 12 to 18 to 30 and we are now above 40 inpatients throughout our CentraCare facilities — you know, over 40 patients with likely a third of them being in the ICU,” he told MPR News.

As schools, sports and activities have resumed, there's been a spike in cases among younger people, and they are spreading it to older relatives who haven't been vaccinated yet.

He estimates that about 40 percent of the new cases are COVID-19 variants.

Cases spread across age groups

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 98,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 51,000 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 41,000 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 they will spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations. Those with the coronavirus can spread it when they don’t have symptoms.

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.

Officials have acknowledged that distrust by communities of color has been a problem during the pandemic. They’ve offered up some data on vaccinations broken down by race and ethnicity that they’re updating regularly.

Rules loosened, April visits easier for care residents

State officials this week had good news for residents of assisted living and nursing homes. Effective immediately, they can leave their facility for less than 24 hours without having to quarantine when they return.

It means that in most circumstances, residents can go out with family and friends without needing to quarantine upon return if they are back within 24 hours and adhere to COVID-19 protocols, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director said.

The policy aligns with new federal guidance and because it’s immediate it means residents and families can be together on Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other spring celebrations outside the facility

Ehresmann on Thursday also said that because vaccination rates are high and disease rates are down in assisted living facilities, the state is loosening rules to allow for more opening dining and socializing.

Residents who are fully vaccinated can dine with others and participate in activities like card playing while being closer than 6 feet.

The change, she added, does not include Minnesota skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes that serve higher-risk populations.

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.

Top headlines

These things should not prevent you from getting a COVID vaccine: Vaccinations for the coronavirus are supposed to be free and available to all Americans regardless of insurance or immigration status. For some, that isn’t how it has been playing out. Here are common false barriers to look out for.

Study shows COVID-19 vaccine is safe during pregnancy and may protect baby, too: Not only does the new research show the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are effective at protecting pregnant people, it also found that antibodies were present in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

A 4th COVID-19 surge may be starting. How bad could it get?: After more than two months of steep declines, coronavirus infections are on the rise again nationally — along with COVID-19 hospitalizations in many states. Experts say the pandemic’s trajectory depends on how Americans behave in the next several weeks and how quickly vaccines get in arms.

Lawsuit over Minnesota correction's handling of COVID-19 will proceed: A Ramsey County judge has ruled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota can proceed against the Minnesota Department of Corrections over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that just one-fifth of Minnesota’s approximately 7,600 inmates have been fully vaccinated.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.