• 57°

COVID-19 update: Good trends hold but vaccinations stay flat in Minnesota; active cases decrease in Freeborn County

Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 data continues to offer plenty of reasons to be encouraged about the path of the pandemic. Key trend lines around the disease continue to angle in the right direction.

Hospitalization counts, for instance, remain steady at late September/early October levels, with 326 Minnesotans hospitalized as of Thursday and 73 needing intensive care. New hospital admissions remain low relative to their late November, early December surge.

Known, active caseloads ticked up above 8,000 cases, but the trend line remains at levels not seen since late September. New cases reported were a fairly modest 1,058.

The overall vaccination pace is still flat after falling following a late January surge. The state on Friday reported more than 31,000 new vaccinations, down from the prior Friday. With federal vaccine shipments rising, this could be a lull before an upswing.

Friday’s data arrived minutes after Gov. Tim Walz OK’d increases in the number of people allowed inside restaurants and at weddings and other private gatherings as the pandemic picture improves and vaccinations appear headed in the right direction.

About 11.1 percent of Minnesotans had received at least one dose as of Wednesday, with about 3.4 percent completely vaccinated. About 30 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have now been vaccinated.

Officials have been emphasizing over the past weeks that the relatively low flow of vaccine supplies from the federal government is the main problem holding back the pace of vaccinations. There’s data to back that up.

The state, though, was down to 29th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hoping to speed the effort, the Health Department has opened mass vaccination sites in the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth and posted information on its online vaccine finder.

Nineteen reported deaths on Thursday raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,362. Among those who’ve died, about 63 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state’s recorded 471,851 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic. About 97 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

State officials continue to caution that the hopeful trends are still tenuous, noting the new virus strains arriving in the United States, including two cases of the Brazilian strain and 18 of the U.K. variant in Minnesota.

Malcolm and state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann have spent much of the pandemic warning people the pandemic is not over and could quickly worsen if Minnesotans didn’t stay vigilant.

On Thursday, though, even they said the current situation looks pretty decent.

“We’re in a better place right now than we have been for quite some time,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Thursday in an surprisingly upbeat assessment.

She and Malcolm were quick to point out that strains of the virus from Brazil and the U.K. remain concerning. Ehresmann said it’s still important to wear masks in public gathering spaces, socially distance and otherwise stay vigilant against spread of the virus and its variants.

She also cautioned against unnecessary travel now, despite the subzero weather and the desire by some Minnesotans to head south.

Otherwise, they were perhaps more positive than they have been in months about Minnesota’s location on the pandemic arc. Said Ehresmann: “We’re closer than ever to the end.”

South-central Minnesota

Freeborn County reported six new lab-confirmed cases on Friday, increasing its cumulative cases to 2,707. Of the total, 55 are considered active cases, a decrease of 18 from the day before.

There were no new hospitalizations or deaths Thursday. The county’s death total from the pandemic stands at 23.

The new cases included two people in their 30s, two people in their 60s, and one each in their 20s and 40s.

The following is an update on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: five new cases; 1,162 total cases
  • Mower County: five new cases; 3,931 total cases
  • Steele County: two new cases; 2,933 total cases
  • Waseca County: seven new cases; 2,022 total cases