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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Cases, ICU needs fall, but so do vaccinations

May 04, 2021 05:45AM ● By Editor
Black Nurses Rock member nurse Lily Thomas, left, tells Chinaker Kinapoe to keep his vaccine card and return for a second dose at a vaccine clinic at the Power of People Leadership Institute in Minneapolis on March 19.  Photo: Evan Frost | MPR News file

From Minnesota Public Radio News - May 4, 2021

Minnesota’s COVID-19 trends continue to show the state on the downslope of a recent wave, yet public health leaders are pleading with residents to stay vigilant against spreading the disease — and to get vaccinated.

While active case counts are at their lowest since late March, so are vaccination trends. That’s slowing the state’s efforts to reach herd immunity.

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

Here are Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 statistics:

  • 7,163 deaths (3 newly reported)

  • 580,340 positive cases; 96 percent off isolation

  • 58.6 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose; about 45 percent completely vaccinated

Officials remain anxious about the flattening pace of vaccinations and what seems to be a wavering public will around mask wearing and other COVID-19 precautions. 

Overall, though, the disease metrics look solid enough that Gov. Tim Walz in coming days is expected to announce he’s loosening some pandemic curbs, likely raising capacity limits for bars, restaurants and other indoor public gathering spaces.

Active cases, hospitalizations down

The count of known, active COVID-19 cases fell to 14,141 in Monday’s numbers — down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April and the lowest it’s been since late March. The positive test rate remains just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Monday’s report showed 576 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 155 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their recent peaks. 

Three newly reported deaths brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,163. Among those who have died, about 61 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 580,340 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,105 posted Monday. 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 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 been creeping up the past few weeks across the state, but the trend appears to have peaked.

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.

Vaccination pace wanes

More than 2.5 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 2 million have completed their vaccinations, as of Monday’s update.

That works out to about 45 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and nearly 57 percent with at least one shot, including 87 percent of those 65 and older. 

A line chart

Minnesota’s vaccination pace, however, has been slipping in recent weeks as officials work now to reach out to those who for whatever reasons haven’t been vaccinated.

Newly reported COVID-19 vaccine doses in Minnesota

The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Officials, however, also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.

Chart of vaccinations by race
Youth counts concerning

While the overall trends are solid, officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people. They’re urging more testing of middle and high school studentsand weekly testing for athletes, coaches, referees and other youth sports participants.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 107,000 since the pandemic began.

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 47,000 15-to-19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

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.

People attending proms, graduations and other youth-oriented events are a special concern now for health officials.

The work by schools and districts to build safeguards into those events “can be completely undermined if students and parents don’t do their part, as well,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters last week.
Latest developments

Freeborn Co. cancels 2021 fair amid pandemic worry 

The organizers of the Freeborn County Fair in southern Minnesota say they're canceling this summer's fair — at least, in its usual form.

In a Facebook post they said uncertainty over what pandemic restrictions will look like this summer makes it too financially risky to book concerts and other entertainment. 

Fair organizers said entertainment contracts for the fair add up to about $300,000, and there hasn't been any income from events at the fairgrounds over the past year.

"We understand that people want to get out and enjoy the fair, but planning for a successful fair at this time when there isn’t any guarantee the restrictions will be lifted, would jeopardize the fair for years to come," fair manager Mike Woitas said in the Facebook post.

Organizers said they'll still work with 4-H groups in Freeborn County to stage an event this summer where kids can show livestock and other projects.

County fairs all across Minnesota are weighing how to proceed this year after last summer's cancellations. Gov. Tim Walz said last week he's optimistic the Minnesota State Fair can be held this August in a close-to-normal way.

— MPR News Staff

Top headlines

Minnesota businesses struggle with back-to-work plans:What will office space look like after the pandemic? Many businesses are grappling with that question right now as they contemplate bringing back employees who’ve worked remotely for more than a year. Open plan shared spaces may be the thing of the past and many people might be splitting their time between conventional work spaces and home offices.

Crunch time at MN Capitol collides with COVID fight: House and Senate negotiators have begun their search for compromises while top leaders aim to make the overarching deal they’ll need to draw the Legislature’s session to a close.

FDA expected to OK Pfizer vaccine for teens within week: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young adults age 12 and older by next week, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year. 

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

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