May 20 update on COVID-19 in MN: Case counts trending down; vaccinations crawl

Students stand by their desks
Kindergarten students in Kim Depuydt's classroom stand up for a song and dance during the first day of full classes back at school in South Elementary in St. Peter, Minn. on Tuesday. Teachers were given different options of laying out their classrooms for social distancing, using methods like spacing desks farther apart, using plastic dividers or different styles of seating.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

3 things to know

  • 62.4 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older with at least one vaccine dose; 54.7 percent — more than 2.4 million people — are now completely vaccinated

  • New case counts trending at lowest point since early March

  • Vaccination pace crawls

Updated: 12:03 p.m.

COVID-19 continues to ebb in Minnesota following a mid-April surge. Still, the vaccination pace continues to struggle for traction, raising concerns that hundreds of thousands of Minnesota adults might choose to go unvaccinated.

That concern is overshadowing an overall positive pandemic picture. Thursday’s Health Department numbers show new case counts trending at just over 800 a day — the lowest since early March. Active case counts and hospitalizations are also trending down.

Even though they’ve ended Minnesota’s statewide mask-wearing order, officials acknowledge the need to do more to get shots into the arms of Minnesota adults who still don’t have them.

That now includes offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the next couple of weeks at the Minnesota State Fair grounds.

Graph showing when Minnesota is on target to vaccinated 70% of adults

Despite concerns around the sputtering vaccination rate, the overall pandemic picture continues to brighten.

The count of known, active COVID-19 cases came in at 7,239. Active cases have fallen by nearly half over the past few weeks and are down nearly two-thirds from their most recent high of around 20,000 in mid-April.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

There were 412 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 109 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their April peaks. New hospital admissions have dropped significantly and are trending at six-week lows.

Graph of new ICU and non-ICU COVID-19 hospitalizations

Eight newly reported deaths Thursday brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,333. Among those who have died, about 60 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 597,052 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 874 posted Thursday — the sixth consecutive day of fewer than 1,000 new cases. About 98 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 crept up across the state during April, but the trend is clearly on the slide.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

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.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 110,000 since the pandemic began. The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 48,000 15-to-19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

New Minnesota COVID-19 cases by age, adjusted for population

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 trudges ahead

More than 2.7 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose; more than 2.4 million have completed their vaccinations as of Thursday’s update.

That works out to about 54.7 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 62.4 percent with at least one shot, including 89 percent of those 65 and older.

A line chart.

The vaccination pace, however, has plummeted in recent weeks. Minnesota was averaging 60,000 shots a day at one point in mid-April before it began dropping. It’s been running at less than 40,000 daily the past two weeks.

Thursday’s data showed what appeared to be a surge in vaccinations, with nearly 70,000 added. State officials, though, said the vaccine report held a one-time backlog of about 24,000 doses administered to 16-and-older Minnesotans by North Dakota providers since January. 

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

State public health leaders have been pleading with those still not vaccinated to get their shots. Eligible Minnesotans can now walk in for a COVID-19 vaccination without an appointment at the state’s community vaccination program locations.

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

Officials are not yet reporting vaccinations among newly eligible 12-to-15-year-olds, but they’ve reported more than 25,000 new vaccinations the past few days of people with “unknown” age.

Most of these are probably 12-to-15-year-olds who aren’t being properly reported by the Health Department’s computer systems, designed in a world where the minimum age for COVID-19 vaccines was 16.

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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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