Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Trends solid; Walz eyes 'close to normal' State Fair

A woman receives his COVID-19 vaccine shot.
St. Cloud, Minn., resident Ilhan Ali holds steady as nurse Kris Kobienia administers a vaccination shot for COVID-19 earlier this month at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News file

3 things to know

  • Active cases trending down; Walz plans more loosening of COVID-19 curbs

  • More than 57 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one dose; 43 percent fully vaccinated

  • 22 COVID-19 cases linked to recent protests in Brooklyn Center over the police killing of Daunte Wright; 11 among law enforcement

Updated 3:38 p.m.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 report on this last day of April looks much better than just a few weeks ago, but officials continue to urge residents to stay vigilant against spreading the disease.

The overall trends look solid following a rising caseload wave in early April, enough so that Gov. Tim Walz in coming days is expected to loosen some curbs on public gathering spaces.

Public health leaders remain concerned about the flattening pace of vaccinations and what seems to be a wavering public will around mask wearing and other COVID-19 precautions.

They continue to implore Minnesotans to keep their guard up during proms, graduations and other spring events, noting that more contagious COVID-19 variants are driving new cases across the state.

Officials also recently confirmed 22 COVID-19 cases linked to recent protests in Brooklyn Center over the police killing of Daunte Wright. Half of those cases were found among law enforcement. The Health Department urged anyone at the protests to get tested.

“These kinds of events are ripe for spread” unless people stay on guard, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday.

Overall, conditions in Minnesota have improved to the point that Gov. Tim Walz is expected to loosen more restrictions on public gathering places next week, likely increasing capacity limits for bars, restaurants and other venues.

"There’s probably only a couple turns left,” on the state’s reopening dial, Walz told reporters on Friday. He predicted the Minnesota State Fair in August would be “a pretty close to normal event" this year after COVID-19 canceled it in 2020.

"Everything looks to me on the horizon, in the way the vaccine is going and the way the virus is responding,” he said.

The count of known, active cases came in at 15,638 in Friday’s numbers, higher than the prior day but down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April. The seven-day trend line is at its lowest point in more than three weeks.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive remains just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Hospitalizations had been climbing the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January.

Friday’s numbers showed 619 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 166 needed intensive care. Both figures are down from the prior week. Hospitalizations can often stay higher for several weeks following an increase in active cases.

Sixteen deaths reported Friday brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,144. 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 575,812 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,877 posted Friday. 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 isolate.

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 plateauing

Minnesota’s vaccination pace remains relatively flat as officials work now to reach out to those who haven’t been vaccinated.

More than 2.5 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 1.9 million have completed their vaccinations, as of Friday’s update.

That works out to about 43 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 57 percent with at least one shot, including about 87 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.

The pace may pick up, after federal health officials lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But the recent production breakdown that resulted in millions of J&J doses ruined is having an impact.

Officials also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.

The Health Department estimates about about 3.4 percent of Minnesotans who’ve received their first dose of a two-dose regimen are late for their second shot. Nationwide, about 8 percent of Americans have skipped out on their second dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Graph projecting when most Minnesotans will get vaccinated

Out of more than 1.2 million Minnesotans completely vaccinated with two weeks logged beyond the last dose, officials say they’ve confirmed just a sliver, 1,163 cases, where a completely vaccinated person became infected with COVID-19.

Youth counts concerning

While the numbers are improving, officials continue to emphasize 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 have 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.

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.

People attending proms, graduations and other youth oriented events are a special concern now for health officials.

The work by schools and districts to build safeguards into those events “can be completely undermined if students and parents don’t do their part, as well,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Thursday.

Latest developments

Carleton, Macalester requiring students be vaccinated

Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., announced Wednesday that the school will require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall, in addition to flu vaccinations.

Macalester College in St. Paul made a similar announcement earlier this month. That school's president, Suzanne Rivera, says their decision was easy.

“We want our classrooms full. We want indoor choir practices. We want spectators at athletic contests. We want to be able to have roommates in dormitories,” she said.

Both schools say they will allow very limited exceptions.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

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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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