3 things to know
Gov. Tim Walz announces a May 28 end to COVID-19 restrictions and an end to the state mask mandate by July 1
59.3 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one dose; 46.1 percent — more than 2 million people — are now completely vaccinated
Vaccination pace continues to slide
Updated: 2:11 p.m.
The state’s latest COVID-19 data shows the spring case wave ebbing, but also shows a continued, concerning drop in the pace of vaccinations.
Still, the progress against the pandemic is enough that Gov. Tim Walz Thursday unveiled plans to end the state’s COVID-19 restrictions by May 28 and end the mask wearing mandate by July 1.
Walz made it clear to reporters that he believed the end of the pandemic is in sight, but he also pleaded with still-unvaccinated Minnesota adults to get their shots.
Vaccination pace sliding
About 2.6 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose; more than 2 million have now completed their vaccinations as of Thursday’s update.
That works out to more than 46 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and more than 59 percent with at least one shot, including 87 percent of those 65 and older.
Minnesota’s vaccination pace, however, has been falling in recent weeks. It’s down now to its lowest level in more than two months with indications of a significant drop in demand.
The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Officials, however, also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.
The work to reach out to people who haven’t yet been vaccinated “will be a bit harder” than when Minnesotans were lining up for the shots, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Tuesday.
“We recognize successes are going to be hard to come by in this phase,” she said. “Anytime we move up by a percentage point [in people vaccinated], that’s a big deal.”
Active cases, hospitalization trends down
The count of known, active COVID-19 cases came in at 13,659 in Thursday’s numbers — down from the most recent high of about 20,000 in mid-April and hovering the past few days at levels not seen since late March.
Thursday’s report showed 565 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 152 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their recent peaks.
Thirteen newly reported deaths brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,204. 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 584,227 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,661 posted Thursday. About 97 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.
“There is still an extremely high level of virus circulating all over the state,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Tuesday.
Youth counts concerning
While the overall trends are solid, officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people. They’ve been 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 108,000 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,” Ehresmann told reporters recently.
More than half MN inmates, prison staff vaccinated
Vaccination efforts inside Minnesota’s prisons have led to more than half of inmates and staff being immunized against COVID-19.
Statistics kept by the Department of Corrections show that just shy of 60 percent of the 7,100 incarcerated people are fully vaccinated.
Most received the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell told lawmakers Wednesday that the agency is strongly encouraging vaccination.
Prisons are among the congregate living settings that have been a source of concern about virus spread during the pandemic. There have been more than 4,000 cases and 12 deaths involving Minnesota inmates.
— Brian Bakst | MPR News
MN GOP wants amnesty for businesses that violated COVID curbs
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate say they want amnesty for businesses that violated COVID-19 restrictions.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced the amnesty proposal as part of a larger budget offer he made to House Democrats, an opening bid in end-of-session negotiations that DFL Gov Tim Walz and other Democrats are unlikely to accept.
Gazelka wants to waive any penalties levied against businesses for violating executive orders issued by Walz the past year in response to the pandemic.
“We’re nearing the end, I believe. And as we get through this, many of those small businesses had many hardships, and I think this is something that could really make this go better,” said Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake.
Senate Republicans also want an end-of-session deal that lifts all of the governor’s executive orders, including mask requirements, he added.
— Tim Pugmire | MPR News
Bus depot pop-up clinics highlight Minnesota’s evolving vaccine strategy: As the once-high demand for COVID-19 vaccinations has ebbed, public health officials are adjusting strategies for getting shots to as many Minnesotans as possible. That shift has been on display in Duluth this week, where nurses have answered questions about vaccines and given out free shots — no appointment required — in the downtown transit center.
Nursing home staff lag in COVID-19 vaccinations, but role models help: According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 57 percent of staff in skilled nursing homes statewide have their shots, and a somewhat smaller percentage — 48 percent — of workers in assisted living facilities are vaccinated.
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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