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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Vaccination acceleration; State Fair in reach

Mar 04, 2021 06:01AM ● By Editor
John Pastor (right) and Abe Jacob of M Health Fairview in Minneapolis show Gov. Tim Walz a newly arrived vial of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.
Photo: Matt Sepic | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - March 4, 2021

After months of grim milestones in the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota will reach an especially bright one on Thursday: The count of Minnesotans now completely vaccinated will top the total number of known COVID-19 cases in the entire pandemic. 

After a wobbly start, state vaccination trends are running in the right direction, enough so that a buoyant Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that June weddings and a Minnesota State Fair this year were within reach.

“The brass ring is pretty grabbable with the State Fair” this year, he said as after highlighting the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a Minneapolis hospital. Activities for “June and beyond, those look pretty promising.” 

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,507 deaths (17 new)

  • 486,434 positive cases (788 new); 97 percent off isolation

  • 16.7 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older with at least 1 dose

  • 54 percent 65 and older with at least 1 dose

The Health Department on Wednesday reported about 32,000 new vaccinations in Minnesota, nearly twice the number from last Wednesday. The seven-day trend is running at nearly 39,000 shots daily now, the highest since vaccinations began in late December.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

State public health leaders have said for weeks that they’d be ready to ramp up when they got more supply. With the federal government now promising enough vaccine to inoculate every adult American by the end of May — two months earlier than expected — the table seems set.

At the current rate, 80 percent of Minnesota adults should be able to get at least one shot by late June.

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

About 16.7 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and older — more than 928,000 people — had received at least one dose as of Wednesday’s Health Department update, with 484,383 — about 8.7 percent — completely vaccinated.

The Johnson & Johnson doses, which require only one shot, are a game changer, officials say. More than 45,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine should be distributed in Minnesota this week. 

A line chart

Walz said there will be a drop off in J&J supply following the initial shipment but that the state would receive shipments of other vaccines in the meantime and the J&J flow would resume in a few more weeks.

Fifty-four percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot currently, according to Health Department calculations. That’s important since officials have said the state will expand vaccination eligibility when 70 percent of that population gets a first dose.

Officials were expected to meet that goal by the end of March, but Walz on Wednesday said it will come faster than that.

A bar graph

Minnesota currently ranks 16th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Officials on Tuesday said that 84 percent of Minnesota’s nursing home residents had received at least an initial dose while 69 percent had been completely vaccinated; 89 percent of assisted living residents had at least one dose while 63 percent received the complete series.

Pandemic metrics hold steady

While the pace of vaccinations is picking up, Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show the state stable in a good way.

Hospitalization rates remain encouraging at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases. The Health Department on Tuesday reported 243 people in Minnesota hospitals with COVID-19, with 57 needing intensive care, staying down at relatively low levels.

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

Known, active cases came in at 6,675, continuing a trend that stayed fairly stable through February and remains down dramatically from late November and early December, when active cases hovered around 50,000.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Seventeen newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,507. Among those who’ve died, about 62 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 486,434 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 788 reported Wednesday. 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 be isolated.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota
Despite recent positive trends in key metrics, officials remain concerned about COVID-19 strains with the potential to spread. Minnesota has 112 confirmed cases of the so-called U.K. variant and two cases of the Brazil variant. State health officials continue to implore Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease. 

Cases spread across age groups, regions

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 91,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 48,000 among those ages 20 to 24.

New Minnesota COVID-19 cases by age adjusted for population

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 38,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began. 

With kids increasingly returning to school buildings and sports, Minnesota public health officials are urging Minnesota families with children to get tested every two weeks for COVID-19 now until the end of the school year.

Percent of COVID-19 tests to come back positive

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth will spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations. 

People can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms. 

Regionally, most parts of Minnesota are down significantly from the late November and early December spike, as well as a smaller January uptick. 

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Caseloads still heaviest among people of color

In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.

New COVID-19 cases per capita by race

Even as new case counts continue to track well below their late November, early December peaks, the data shows Latino people continue to be hit hard.

Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.

Walz has acknowledged that distrust by communities of color has been a problem during the pandemic. Officials are expected to release data Thursday on vaccinations broken down by race and ethnicity.

Top headlines

Online community helps people find COVID vaccine appointments: Members of a Facebook group called Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters help people across Minnesota find and sign up for vaccination appointments each day. Since it launched Feb. 1, the group has grown to more than 20,000 members.

Latino small business stay resilient through a ‘pandemic year’: Small businesses have never had it easy and over the past year, things got a lot harder — especially for the Latino business community. Now, one year into pandemic-related restrictions, some resilient small businesses are starting to look to the future. 

To see the orignal posts and read more COVID-19 reports, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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