COVID-19 update: Walz vows shots for all of Minnesota by summer

Published 11:32 am Friday, February 26, 2021

Gov. Tim Walz says every Minnesotan should be able to get a shot by the summer. The state’s vaccination effort, however, continues to struggle for traction.

Walz laid out plans Thursday to get COVID-19 shots into the arms of every Minnesotan who wants one by the summer while keeping the state’s short-term focus on residents 65 and older. He even suggested the Minnesota State Fair was possible this year.

“The finish line’s there. Let’s finish this thing,” Walz said in remarks that were mostly upbeat about the state’s current circumstances on the one-year anniversary of the first Minnesotan showing COVID-19 symptoms.

The governor’s remarks, though, were tempered by data showing Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccination pace remains frustratingly flat even as the overall pandemic picture continues to brighten.

Officials hope the arrival of some 45,000 weather-delayed shots on top of the state’s regular 100,000-dose allocation will soon jump-start the pace of vaccinations, although it hasn’t happened yet and the pressure to move faster is rising.

Walz said the state wouldn’t expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines until at least 70 percent of residents age 65 and older get a first dose — a threshold officials expect to reach by the end of March.

Once that threshold has been met, Minnesota will open vaccinations to others based on underlying health conditions and workplace exposure risk, including some 45,000 employees working at Minnesota food processing plants.

The governor and other officials indicated that their timeline was conservative and expressed hope that it would move faster as more supplies — including the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine now under federal review — become available.

“We can’t do it fast enough. Every single governor in this country is hearing the same things,” Walz said of vaccinations. “It’s simply a supply and demand issue, folks There’s not enough vaccines still at this point in time.”

Minnesota currently ranks 17th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota had been as low as 25th on that ranking.

South-central Minnesota

More than 13% of Freeborn County’s population (4,037) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination through Wednesday.

Minnesota’s vaccination rate stands at 14.1%.

Freeborn County reported 11 new lab-confirmed cases on Friday, increasing its cumulative cases to 2,791. Of the total, 61 are considered active cases.

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

The new cases included three people in their 50s, two people in their 60s, and one apiece ages 5-8, and in their early teens, late teens, 20s, 30s, and 40s.

The following is an update on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: five new cases; 1,225 total cases; 1,867 vaccines administered (13.5% of population)
  • Mower County: seven new cases; 4,014 total cases; 5,297 vaccines administered (13.3% of population)
  • Steele County: four new cases; 2,987 total cases; 4,327 vaccines administered (11.6% of population)
  • Waseca County: four new cases; 2,079 total cases; 2,351 vaccines administered (12.5% of population)

Minnesota reported 12 more deaths — none in south-central Minnesota — caused by COVID-19 on Thursday, along with 1,156 new cases.