State public health leaders are expected to brief reporters at 2 p.m.
Updated 11:48 a.m.
Thursday’s COVID-19 data shows Minnesota continuing its relatively positive trend lines on a bunch of key measures, including new cases and hospitalizations.
The Health Department reported 1,598 newly confirmed or probable cases of the disease — along with 43 more deaths; 645 people were in the hospital with COVID-19, with 131 needing intensive care.
Those hospitalization counts have dropped by more than half over the past four weeks. The seven-day trend of new hospital admissions is down to levels not seen since late October. Hospital admissions are now lower than they were on Nov. 1, but still above their Oct. 1 level.
While the improving trends look good following an awful November and December — when cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiked — officials still don’t believe the state is in the clear. Public health leaders believe another surge is likely in the coming weeks following the year-end holidays.
Gov. Tim Walz said in mid-December his COVID-19 watchers were worried about a February spike. On Monday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm braced Minnesotans to see daily death and case counts trending higher again.
Active, confirmed case counts are trending up slightly.
“We do expect to see cases go back up in Minnesota following the year-end holidays, and potentially just as a result of the winter wearing on and more indoor time and more gatherings,” Malcolm told reporters.
The cases reported Thursday put Minnesota at 441,935 in the pandemic. Of those, about 95 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 5,817. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
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 84,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 44,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 34,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.
It’s of particular concern because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
A relatively small bump in new cases has been happening across the state.
Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.
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.
Even as new case counts ease from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows people of color continue to be hit hardest.
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.
Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
‘A promise to deliver isn’t delivering’
Minnesota officials hope the federal government’s call for states to expand the priority pool of people getting COVID-19 vaccinations means more supplies are coming but they say the feds weren’t yet backing up those calls with more vaccine deliveries.
Trump administration officials Tuesday urged states to immediately expand eligibility to people 65 and older as well as people most vulnerable to the disease.
The administration also plans to start distributing vaccine based on a state’s over-65 population and its pace of vaccination. Currently, doses are allocated based on a state’s total adult population.
About 430,000 doses have been shipped to Minnesota so far to health providers and the federal program for long-term care facility vaccinations, according to the state’s new COVID-19 vaccination dashboard website; more than 140,000 Minnesotans have received at least one dose so far.
While Minnesota welcomes more vaccine becoming available more quickly to more people, “a promise to deliver isn’t delivering,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Tuesday.
The changing federal recommendations could potentially add “a couple million people who will expect to be vaccinated” in Minnesota, she said. “If we’re only getting 60,000 doses a week, that is going to be a real problem.”
No additional doses have been shipped or arrived, she added.
“We are ready to receive more vaccine if the feds actually follow through on their promise,” Ehresmann said. Right now, “there are no additional doses for use. There are not doses to put into arms to go along with that.”
Later Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz’s office said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had agreed to the requests of Minnesota and eight other states to release “millions of doses” that had been held back for distribution. The exact amount of supply that would go to Minnesota, though, wasn’t detailed.
Developments around the state
MN to remain in peacetime emergency for at least another 30 days
The state will remain in a peacetime emergency posture for at least another 30 days.
Gov. Tim Walz has extended his COVID-19 executive authority with approval of a council of state officeholders. The declaration he first issued last March has enabled his administration to manage the pandemic response. But it has also riled critics who say he should consult the Legislature more directly.
While there has been some recent improvement in coronavirus trends here, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said risks remain.
“The conditions remain very fragile and volatile. Certainly we could see and frankly expect to see continued increase in cases as economic activity and social interactions pick up a bit,” Malcolm said.
— Brian Bakst | MPR News
Minn. lawmakers to Walz — where are the shots? Minnesota legislators are pressing state officials to speed up Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccinations. Gov. Tim Walz says kinks in the federally managed distribution system are the main holdup.
As children’s museums reopen, will most families come back? COVID-19 has upended how children’s museums operate. The pandemic has forced many of them to temporarily close, including the state’s largest children’s museum in St. Paul. After a seven-week hiatus, however, the museum reopens Thursday.
Schools are poised to reopen, but teachers aren’t vaccinated: Teachers from some of the state’s largest school districts are voicing concerns about the return to in-person instruction, noting that they have yet to be vaccinated at a time when the COVID-19 virus is still spreading.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
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