April 26 update on COVID-19 in MN: Cases, hospitalizations ebb; first grader dies

A woman in a mask fills a syringe with vaccine from a vial
Kylee Ressemann pre-fills syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination on April 7. The CentraCare nurse was part of a mobile "strike team" that set up at First Presbyterian Church in Foley, Minn., to administer the vaccine.
Paul Middlestaedt | MPR News

3 things to know

  • Caseloads, hospitalizations ebbing

  • First grader in southwestern Minnesota died Sunday from COVID-19 complications

  • About 56 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose; 41 percent completely vaccinated

Updated: 7:45 p.m.

A southwestern Minnesota first grader died Sunday from COVID-19 complications, officials said Monday. It was the third such death of a Minnesota child since the pandemic began.

That sad news came as the state’s newest data suggested the current wave of active cases and hospitalizations may have crested.

Active cases, hospital, ICU needs receding

Overall hospitalizations had been climbing significantly over the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January. Monday’s numbers, though, showed 613 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota, down significantly from last week.

The number of patients needing an intensive care bed is also starting to fall, from 202 reported Friday to 179 reported Monday.

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Known, active cases came in at 15,340 in Monday’s numbers — the lowest since April 1.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Active cases climbed above 20,000 earlier this month. Given the state’s vaccination effort, officials said they didn’t expect this wave would match the 50,000 active cases seen in the late November surge, but they remained worried given the rise in new COVID-19 strains.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive continues to trend down after a recent upswing. The trend line on Monday slipped just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

Minnesota’s overall pandemic death toll remained at 7,079 Monday. Among those who have 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 569,440 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,197 posted Monday. 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.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. Case counts had been creeping up the past few weeks across the state, but the trend appears to have peaked.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Child’s death ‘simply heartbreaking,’ Walz says

The child who died Sunday in southwestern Minnesota was a first grader at Park Side Elementary School in Marshall.

“I recognize this is scary and concerning for many,” Jeremy Williams, the school district superintendent, wrote in a letter to parents. “We encourage you to continue to watch your students for any signs of COVID. If your student begins to show symptoms, please bring them in to be tested right away.”

Williams said the district has been following all state and federal COVID-19 guidelines, and is providing crisis support to those who need it.

The news comes just a few days after state health officials raised concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in school-aged children.

“While COVID-related deaths in children are rare, they can occur even in otherwise healthy children,” the state Health Department said in a statement Monday confirming the child’s death.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Monday that the child who died didn’t have any underlying health conditions.

More than 56,000 kids age 14 and under in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. More than 400 of those children have been hospitalized; 99 have been admitted to intensive care. Three children have now died from complications of the disease.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday offered his condolences to the loved ones of the child who died.

“It is simply heartbreaking to hear that COVID-19 has taken the life of someone so young,” Walz said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. There is no grief more profound than the loss of family.”

Youth counts still a concern

While the numbers are improving, officials continue to emphasize that the pandemic is not over.

Minnesota officials say they want more testing of middle and high school students because they’re increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people, particularly those playing youth sports.

State health and education officials on Thursday posted updated guidance urging athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers and other youth sports participants to get tested weekly for COVID-19.

Students not participating in sports or other group activities are “still strongly encouraged” to test every two weeks, they said. Middle and high schools are being advised to offer on-site testing.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 106,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 55,000 among those ages 20 to 24.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 46,000 15-to-19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

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 COVID-19 virus can spread it when they don’t have symptoms.

Vaccination pace leveling out

Minnesota enters the last week of April having passed the milestone of 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to state residents since vaccinations started in December.

A line chart.

That includes more than 2.4 million residents 16 and older with at least one vaccine dose, and more than 1.8 million Minnesotans who have completed their vaccinations, as of Monday’s update from state health officials.

That works out to about 41 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and about 56 percent with at least one shot, including 86 percent of those 65 and older.

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

The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered in the past couple weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which federal authorities paused earlier this month as they investigated the possibility of rare side effects associated with the shot.

The pace may pick up, after federal health officials on Friday lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Chart of vaccinations by race

Top headlines

In rural Minn., fighting vaccine hesitancy one community at a time: Health officials say there are many reasons why people aren’t getting vaccinated — including a lack of transportation, limited access to technology, fears about the vaccine's safety and political beliefs about the pandemic.

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.