April 27 update on COVID-19 in MN: Spring wave receding; Walz to loosen curbs

Two people talk in a large room.
Gov. Tim Walz speaks with principal Kristen Olson inside of Parkview Center Elementary School in Roseville, Minn., on Feb. 1.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

3 things to know

  • Active caseloads retreating; Walz plans more loosening of restrictions in coming days

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

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

Updated: 5:41 p.m.

The state’s newest COVID-19 numbers offer more evidence that the recent upswing in cases may have crested.

Active caseloads and new case counts are receding to the point that Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday said he plans to announce another easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days.

"The moves coming now are the moves back to normal,” Walz said during a visit to a mobile vaccination site in Richfield.

"You can be in restaurants, you can be in movie theaters, we have kids in school, we're doing most of those moves. The next moves are capacity limits coming off and of those things," the governor said.

The brightening metrics, though, come with a sad reminder of the pandemic’s pain: A first grader died Sunday from COVID-19 complications.

Active cases receding

The retreat of known, active cases in Minnesota continues. The count came in at 14,317 in Tuesday’s numbers — the lowest since March 31 and down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Given the state’s vaccination efforts, officials said they didn’t expect this spring wave would match the 50,000 active cases seen at the top of 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 dip after a recent upswing. The trend line on Tuesday remained just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Overall hospitalizations had been climbing the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January. Tuesday’s numbers showed 641 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 184 needed intensive care.

Both figures are down from the prior week. Hospitalizations often stay higher for several weeks following an increase in active cases.

Twelve deaths reported Tuesday brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,091.Among those who have died, about 61 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 570,518 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,088 posted Tuesday. 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

Vaccination pace leveling out

Minnesota’s vaccination pace continues to plateau as officials work now to reach out to those who haven’t been vaccinated.

More than 2.4 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and more than 1.8 million Minnesotans have completed their vaccinations, as of Tuesday’s update.

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

A line chart.

The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few 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.

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

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

Daily vaccine shots fell below 15,000 for the first time in more than a month. Shots peaked at nearly 90,000 a day just three weeks ago.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

Youth counts 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 last week 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.

Walz: Child’s death ‘simply heartbreaking’

A child who died Sunday in southwestern Minnesota from COVID-19 complications 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.

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.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Monday that the child didn’t have any underlying health conditions. Walz offered his condolences.

“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.”

Latest developments

Walk-in vaccinations now available at fairgrounds

Health officials say they're opening up COVID-19 vaccinations at the State Fairgrounds.

The mass vaccination site has already been offering appointments for people in surrounding ZIP codes. But a spokesperson for the State Department of Health says the site is now taking walk-ins for first doses without appointments through May 4. Eligibility is no longer limited by ZIP code.

The fairgrounds previously limited walkups to just 100 a day, but now has no limit beyond the 2,000 daily doses it has available.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

St. Paul Public Schools extends free meal program

St. Paul Public Schools will continue its free meal program through the summer.

The district initially started delivery and pickup options when the pandemic forced schools to close to students. The meals will be available to anyone age 18 and younger at dozens of locations.

Delivery is offered for children and young adults with medical or transportation issues.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

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.

Legislature divided over end to COVID-19 eviction rule: With just weeks to go, the Minnesota Legislature will try to merge competing plans around when rental evictions can proceed. The bills aim to address what follows an eviction moratorium imposed during the COVID-19 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.

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