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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Vaccine shipments jump; cases, ICU needs climbing

Apr 08, 2021 05:25AM ● By Editor
Nurse Sam Kissi, left, draws a dose of COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe before administering it to Zarea Fonge at a vaccine clinic put on by Black Nurses Rock and Ramsey County at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in St. Paul on March 28.  Photo: Evan Frost | MPR News file

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 8, 2021

Minnesota officials have repeatedly described the state’s current COVID-19 situation as a kind of competition to inoculate as many Minnesotans as possible before the disease variants get a stronger foothold in the state. 

Those COVID-19 strains are causing problems now, but reinforcements are arriving.

Active cases are trending now at levels not seen since late December. Hospitalizations and intensive needs are climbing. But the vaccination effort continues apace. Minnesota appears to be on track to have 50 percent of adults vaccinated within two weeks.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,908 deaths (19 new)

  • 532,658 positive cases (2,004 newly reported); 96 percent off isolation

  • 42 percent of adults with at least one dose; 28 percent completely vaccinated

  • About 83 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older with at least one vaccine dose

Wednesday’s Health Department data showed more than 1.2 million Minnesotans fully inoculated while nearly 1.9 million have received at least one dose, including about 83 percent of residents age 65 and older. The agency reported about 49,000 more vaccinations.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota likely won’t see as severe a spike in cases this spring as it saw in November and December, but the pandemic isn’t over, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Tuesday.

A line chart

“We’re definitely not out of the woods yet,” Malcolm added, noting that the seven-day positive test rate for the disease is back up at 6 percent. A 5 percent rate is a warning sign of growing spread.

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

Hospitalizations climbing, skewing younger

Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 numbers reinforce Malcolm’s cautionary view. 

Hospitalizations, for instance, have climbed significantly in the past few weeks. The most recent agency data show 538 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals; 138 needed intensive care. These are levels not seen since January.

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

COVID-19 hospital bed use is up by 40 percent since late March, and the percentage of new cases requiring a hospital stay is growing, Malcolm noted.

The age of those needing hospitalization has been skewing younger.

The average age of people hospitalized during the pandemic is 65, but it was 57 years old from March 23 to 29, Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state’s epidemiologist, said Tuesday. 

The median age for deaths is 83 years old through the pandemic, but in March it was 78, she noted.

The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with about 16,000 active cases as of Wednesday’s report — marking nearly three weeks with active counts above 10,000.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

While still low compared to late November and early December, the rising trend is notable given the worries over the rise of the highly contagious U.K. COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which state health officials suspect is driving the current upswing.

They’d confirmed about 1,000 cases in the state of the U.K. strain as of last week and believe it’s responsible for the majority of the spread that is happening now.

Nineteen deaths reported on Wednesday raised Minnesota’s overall pandemic death toll to 6,908. 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 532,658 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 2,004 posted Wednesday. 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 be isolated.

New COVID-19 cases per day in Minnesota

Regional hot spots bubble

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. The latest numbers, however, show cases creeping up in almost every region of the state.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

Public health leaders continue to keep watch on clusters in the southwest Twin Cities metro area as well as Mankato in southern Minnesota and around Aurora and Ely in the northeast. Central Minnesota is also seeing a rise in positive COVID-19 cases.

Cases spread across age groups

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 99,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 52,000 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 42,000 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 until the end of the school year.

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 coronavirus can spread it when they don’t have symptoms. 

Caseloads 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.

Officials have acknowledged that distrust by communities of color has been a problem during the pandemic. They’ve offered up some data on vaccinations broken down by race and ethnicitythat they’re updating regularly.

Top headlines

Feeling guilty, anxious about your COVID-19 vaccine search? You're not alone: Every day, thousands more Minnesotans are receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The legions of vaccine selfies make it clear that getting the shot is a huge relief for many. But some are experiencing other emotions — anxiety, if they haven't gotten vaccinated yet, and sometimes guilt, if they were able to secure an appointment.

Play ball! Largest state gathering in a year set for Target Field: The Minnesota Twins will welcome thousands of fans back to Target Field on Thursday for their home opener. Some experts say with cases up significantly in Minnesota and the B.1.1.7 variant rapidly spreading now is not the time to gather in large groups.

CDC says more virulent British strain of coronavirus now dominant in U.S.: The variant known as B.1.1.7, which is more easily spread, was first identified in England last fall. Since then, it has spread quickly in the U.S.

Black nurse volunteers give COVID shots to Minnesota's most vulnerable: Inequities persist between how easily and quickly Minnesotans of color are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, as compared to their white neighbors. Helping to bridge that gap is a volunteer network of Black nurses, who say giving shots in familiar locations is key to getting more people of color vaccinated more quickly.

Ridership plunges on Northstar line amid pandemic, sparking debate over its future: Metro Transit says ridership has plummeted 96 percent since before the pandemic. That's led one state lawmaker to call for the commuter rail line to be shut down.

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

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