• 45°

Daily Covid-19 update: Minnesota vaccination pace quickens, as Freeborn County cases decline

Minnesota’s COVID-19 picture continues to brighten as the state closes out January, with caseloads and hospitalizations still trending in the right direction — and the pace of vaccinations quickening after a flat start.

The Health Department on Wednesday reported another 851 confirmed or probable cases of the disease — along with 18 more deaths.

Active, known COVID-19 case counts fell to 9,453, the lowest since early October and down dramatically from late November, when they hovered around 50,000. Overall, conditions have improved significantly since the late November, early December surge.

The number of Minnesotans hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to 477, with 97 needing intensive care, as of Monday. That ICU count — a closely watched metric — is at its lowest point in four months.

Wednesday’s report put the state at 456,490 cases in the pandemic. Of those, about 97 percent of people have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

The newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,124. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

South-Central Minnesota

Freeborn County reported nine new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths on Wednesday.

The county’s active cases continued to trend downward, declining four from Tuesday to 102.

Most of the new cases were people in their 40s and 60s.

There was one new hospitalization.

Freeborn has had 2,557 total cases and 23 deaths.

The following are updates on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: 11 new lab-confirmed cases; 1,106 total cases.
  • Mower County: 75 new lab-confirmed cases; 3,768 total cases.
  • Steele County: 15 new lab-confirmed cases; 2,806 total cases.
  • Waseca County: 17 new lab-confirmed cases; 1,940 total cases.

Minnesota reported 18 more deaths – none in south-central Minnesota – caused by COVID-19 Wednesday, along with 851 new cases.

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 87,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 46,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 35,000 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.

Caseloads are trending down across all regions of the state following a late December, early January blip.

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.

Vaccinations accelerate

State leaders have been challenged early-on to get COVID-19 vaccine shots into arms quickly, and they’ve taken criticism that the process has been too slow. But the latest numbers show the upswing in vaccinations may finally be underway.

More than 300,000 Minnesotans received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, about 5.5 percent of the state’s population.

The seven-day rolling average for new vaccinations topped 19,000, the highest point since vaccinations started in late December, and nearly double where that figure stood a week ago.

Demand, however, continues to far outpace supply. Officials on Wednesday said that 226,244 people had registered for a chance to get one of the roughly 8,000 doses earmarked this week for people 65 and older.

The bulk of Minnesotans in that older age group will likely get their vaccinations eventually through their local clinics or pharmacies, rather than through the current, limited pilot project, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday.

Some 1,400 pharmacies, clinics and other health care providers around the state have signed up to vaccinate Minnesotans as more vaccine becomes available. That’s the way most Minnesotans will receive their doses, “but there’s not much supply today,” she added.

As they receive doses, Minnesota clinics will be reaching out to their clients, so “if you haven’t heard from you clinic that they have a supply … it’s not likely that they have vaccine, so best not to flood them with calls but to wait for information,” Malcolm said.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration confirmed it’s would buy an additional 200 million doses of vaccines with the goal of having enough vaccine supply for most of the U.S. population by the end of the summer.

Minnesota is expected to receive nearly 11,000 additional doses each week under the new allocation, according to the Walz administration.