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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Vaccination edges toward plateau; cases continue slow and steady rise

Apr 15, 2021 06:20AM ● By Editor
Nurse Alicia Amundson loads a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud.  Photo: Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 15, 2021

As its COVID-19 vaccination progress continues apace, Minnesota’s daily COVID-19 cases continue to slowly trend higher — along with a growing demand on hospitals and intensive care units. 

Here are Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 statistics, as of Wednesday:

  • 6,978 deaths (16 announced Wednesday); 547,101 positive cases; 95 percent off isolation

  • 48 percent of adults with at least one dose; 33 percent completely vaccinated

  • About 84 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older with at least one vaccine dose

J&J pause tamps down vaccine acceleration

A temporary pause in new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shipments means Minnesota’s vaccine supply won’t rise for another week or more, a setback to earlier hopes that vaccination rates would continue to accelerate through April.

The pause was prompted by a joint Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration recommendation that providers pause their distribution of the J&J vaccine while the agencies investigate the exceedingly rare occurrence of blood clots. 

Graph projecting when most Minnesotans will get vaccinated
MPR News data reporter David Montgomery projects current vaccination data into the future to show when most Minnesotans would get vaccinated at various paces.

The clots have been found in six women — out of nearly 7 million vaccines given nationwide — between the ages of 18 and 48, and occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. Officials say they are not aware of any cases of blood clots occurring among the more than 184,000 state residents who have received the single dose vaccine.

Vaccination rates aren’t likely to accelerate any time soon. Minnesota is on tap to receive about 142,000 new first doses next week — about the same number it received this week. That’s enough to vaccinate about 20,000 new people per day, on average. 

Before this week’s J&J pause and an earlier factory mishap, officials had been hopeful that a flood of new J&J vaccines would combine with existing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to drive Minnesota’s vaccination rate to a new level.

The newest numbers still suggest the state may reach a hopeful milestone — half of adults with at least one vaccine dose — by the end of this week or early next.

About 33.1 percent of Minnesota adults are completely vaccinated; 48.3 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, including about 84.4 percent of residents age 65 and older, the state Health Department said Wednesday.

Case counts slowly trend higher

COVID-19 case counts continue to slowly trend higher. 

Minnesota reported about 1,700 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, down from around 2,000 the week before. Overall the trend is still upward, but there are signs of a possible plateau. 

The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with more than 17,000 as of Wednesday — marking more than three weeks with active daily counts above 10,000. 

Minnesota’s overall pandemic death toll rose to 6,978 Wednesday. Among those who have 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 547,101 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 1,715 posted Wednesday. About 95 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

Hospital, ICU needs increase

Hospitalizations have climbed significantly in the past weeks to levels not seen since January, and deaths tied to the disease are trending up, too. Health officials say coronavirus variants circulating in Minnesota are driving those increases.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

The state on Wednesday reported 681 people in Minnesota hospitals with COVID-19; 164 needed intensive care, hovering near the highest number of ICU patients since early January.

While the numbers are still low, when compared to late November and early December, the rising trend is notable, given the worries over the rise of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant — first identified in the United Kingdom — which state health officials have said they suspect is driving the current upswing.

New COVID-19 cases by Minnesota region

State health commissioner Jan Malcolm said recently that while the increase in cases is concerning, the growing number of vaccinated people in Minnesota means the state likely won’t see as steep a surge in cases of the scope seen in November and December.

Cases among young people growing

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has grown, with more than 43,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began. 

New Minnesota COVID-19 cases by age adjusted for population

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.

Latest developments from around Minnesota

CentraCare responds to J&J vaccine questions

CentraCare, a central Minnesota health care provider, has administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at several mobile vaccination sites, including a St. Cloud mosque on Monday.

On Tuesday came the FDA and CDC’s joint recommendation to pause J&J vaccine administration.

Mahado Ali, CentraCare's supervisor of cultural competency and health equity, said the news has raised some concern among those who received the vaccine. 

"However, we've been very connected to the imams and the community health workers in making sure that the right information is out there for patients and that they're getting all of their questions answered,” Ali said.

CentraCare says it's received no reports of anyone developing symptoms of the rare blood clotting condition that was found in six people who’d received the vaccine, out of nearly 7 million nationwide. 

On a local Somali TV station, Dr. Kim Tjaden, CentraCare's medical director of community health, described the potential symptoms, including severe headache, shortness of breath, leg pain or severe abdominal pain.

"If you have receive this vaccine and you develop those symptoms, we want you to call the Department of Health," said Tjaden, who said CentraCare continues to believe that COVID-19 vaccines are very safe, and that the pause is likely to be temporary.

— Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

Peacetime emergency order extended

Gov. Tim Walz has extended a peacetime emergency order tied to COVID-19 another 30 days.

The move was ratified Wednesday by a panel of statewide officeholders.

The emergency has been in effect since March 2020. It allows Walz to make decisions outside of normal procedures.

The governor said he’s open to tailoring the executive authority going forward. But he said ending it outright could hamper efforts to quickly distribute vaccines and conduct widescale testing. 

He also said some federal money is tied to the emergency declaration.

“The frustration lies between mitigation efforts around the health emergency and our ability to use it,” Walz said. “Because when we start being specific and saying, ‘Would you like us to end the vaccine sites? No, no don’t end the vaccine sites. Would you like us to end supplemental nutrition programs? No, no don’t end supplemental nutrition programs.’ It ends up being, just get rid of the mask mandate.” 

Republicans in the Legislature want Walz to relinquish the authority and involve lawmakers in more decisions.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there are still concerning trends with virus spread — including the state’s test positivity rate, which she said is back above 7 percent.

That rate, she said, is higher than it’s been in recent months and comparable to levels seen last fall.

— Brian Bakst | MPR News

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

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