COVID-19 in MN: Caseloads accelerating among Black Minnesotans

A woman points at a card a man is holding.
Black Nurses Rock member nurse Lily Thomas, left, tells Chinaker Kinapoe to keep his vaccine card and return in 4 weeks for a second dose at a vaccine clinic at the Power of People Leadership Institute in Minneapolis on March 19.
Evan Frost | MPR News

3 things to know

  • 1,667 newly confirmed cases reported over 3 days; 4 newly reported deaths

  • Active cases top 4,500; 248 currently hospitalized

  • Positive test rate rising but still trending below level officials find concerning

Updated 4:12 p.m.

As Minnesota continues to see COVID-19 cases edging higher, the latest data shows that new cases are growing far faster among Black Minnesotans, who are seeing nearly twice the per capita case growth of any other racial or ethnic group during this current wave.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

The jump is happening as the vaccination rate for Black Minnesotans has slowed following a strong spring and early summer.

Chart of vaccinations by race

The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 — estimated to make up 85 percent of new cases in Minnesota — has led to more sickness and hospitalizations, said Kelly Robinson, president of the Twin Cities chapter of Black Nurses Rock, a national volunteer network.

Hoping to boost vaccination rates, her group and others have focused on bringing the vaccine to Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons, as well as churches.

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“The people that we vaccinated, you know we would have missed them had they not had the access,” Robinson said. “It’s not like they don’t know where to go. That’s a part of the challenge for some people. But it’s the access: getting there, making it a priority, and actually going through with it. And feeling comfortable.”

Having conversations with people about the vaccine and making it more accessible in underserved areas where people may not have insurance or reliable transportation are important factors as well, she added.

Overall, Tuesday’s Health Department data showed Minnesota averaging nearly 600 new cases per day over the last seven reporting days, up significantly from about 91 daily at the start of July. Known active cases in that stretch have gone from 780 to back above 4,500.

Active, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

With the rise of the delta variant, federal officials are recommending even vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in areas where community transmission is substantial or high.

On Tuesday, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth all ordered that city staff and visitors wear masks in city-owned buildings. Minneapolis and St. Paul recommended residents mask up in all indoor public spaces.

The University of Minnesota also began requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors to return to indoor masking.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on the latest COVID-19 numbers in MN

About half of Minnesota counties now have what’s considered substantial community spread.

“Heading up in case counts is a direction that no one wanted to go,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday.

“This is a very opportunistic virus,” she added, imploring eligible Minnesotans to get their shots.

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota is in a much better position than in November or April.

Nearly 70 percent of state residents 16 and older — just over 3 million people as of Tuesday’s report — have received at least one vaccination shot.

Graph showing total COVID-19 vaccinations by age

Hospital and intensive care needs have risen, although they still aren’t close to the numbers seen in the fall and spring — 248 people are in hospital beds currently with COVID-19, including 75 needing intensive care.

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

Deaths also remain fairly moderate even as cases and hospitalizations have risen. Malcolm said that’s due directly to vaccinations. “We are not seeing the same proportionate rise in the numbers of deaths as we’ve seen in prior waves,” she said.

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day

Wide gaps, however, remain in the vaccination rate among Minnesota regions.

Map of Minnesota COVID-19 eligible vaccination rate

MPR News reporter Sarah Gelbard contributed to this report.