3 things to know
Vaccination pace declining
58.6 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one dose; 45 percent completely vaccinated
Gov. Tim Walz expected to loosen capacity restrictions this week on bars, restaurants
Updated: 11:50 a.m.
Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 report is another mixed bag of hope and concern.
Active case counts are at their lowest since March 31, but the current seven-day vaccination trend has also fallen to late March levels. That’s slowing the state’s efforts to reach herd immunity.
While the disease trends continue to show Minnesota on the downslope of a recent wave, public health leaders are pleading with residents to stay vigilant against spreading the disease — and to get vaccinated.
Officials remain anxious about the flattening pace of vaccinations and what seems to be a wavering public will around mask wearing and other COVID-19 precautions.
Overall, though, the disease metrics look solid enough that Gov. Tim Walz in coming days is expected to loosen some pandemic curbs, likely raising capacity limits for bars, restaurants and other indoor public gathering spaces.
Active cases, hospitalizations down
The count of known, active COVID-19 cases fell to 14,141 in Monday’s numbers, down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April and the lowest it’s been since late March. The positive test rate remains just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.
Monday’s report showed 576 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 155 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their recent peaks.
Three newly reported deaths brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,163. Among those who have died, about 61 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
The state has recorded 580,340 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,105 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 isolate.
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.
Officials 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.
Vaccination pace wanes
More than 2.5 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 2 million have completed their vaccinations, as of Monday’s update.
That works out to about 45 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and nearly 57 percent with at least one shot, including 87 percent of those 65 and older.
Minnesota’s vaccination pace, however, has been slipping in recent weeks as officials work now to reach out to those who for whatever reasons haven’t been vaccinated.
The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Officials, however, also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.
Youth counts concerning
While the overall trends are solid, officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people. They’re urging more testing of middle and high school students and weekly testing for athletes, coaches, referees and other youth sports participants.
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 107,000 since the pandemic began.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 47,000 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 last week.
Freeborn Co. cancels 2021 fair amid pandemic worry
The organizers of the Freeborn County Fair in southern Minnesota say they're canceling this summer's fair — at least, in its usual form.
In a Facebook post they said uncertainty over what pandemic restrictions will look like this summer makes it too financially risky to book concerts and other entertainment.
Fair organizers said entertainment contracts for the fair add up to about $300,000, and there hasn't been any income from events at the fairgrounds over the past year.
"We understand that people want to get out and enjoy the fair, but planning for a successful fair at this time when there isn’t any guarantee the restrictions will be lifted, would jeopardize the fair for years to come," fair manager Mike Woitas said in the Facebook post.
Organizers said they'll still work with 4-H groups in Freeborn County to stage an event this summer where kids can show livestock and other projects.
County fairs all across Minnesota are weighing how to proceed this year after last summer's cancellations. Gov. Tim Walz said last week he's optimistic the Minnesota State Fair can be held this August in a close-to-normal way.
— MPR News Staff
Minnesota businesses struggle with back-to-work plans: What will office space look like after the pandemic? Many businesses are grappling with that question right now as they contemplate bringing back employees who’ve worked remotely for more than a year. Open plan shared spaces may be the thing of the past and many people might be splitting their time between conventional work spaces and home offices.
Crunch time at MN Capitol collides with COVID fight: House and Senate negotiators have begun their search for compromises while top leaders aim to make the overarching deal they’ll need to draw the Legislature’s session to a close.
Marshall first-graders, parents grieve loss of classmate to COVID-19: School community members grieved the loss of a first-grader at Park Side Elementary School in Marshall, in southwestern Minnesota. Many families navigated the loss — and helped their children try to make sense of it.
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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