• 79°

COVID-19 update: Record daily increase in vaccinations as cases also climb

State public health officials have been going heavy on the racing metaphors recently. Yes, as new COVID-19 cases continue to climb, it does feel like a race to get enough Minnesotans vaccinated quickly to dodge another surge.

There was encouraging news on Saturday, as state health officials reported 77,715 additional vaccine doses administered in Minnesota — the highest single-day total yet.

That boosted the daily average over the past week to more than 42,500 vaccinations — the highest that’s been in nearly two weeks, and a welcome change from days of relatively flat vaccination numbers.

But the seven-day rolling average of new COVID cases reported each day also went up, to about 1,374 — the highest that number has been since Jan. 18. The number of active cases in Minnesota also is the highest it’s been in more than two months.

Here are Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics:

  • 6,825 deaths (4 new)
  • 513,833 positive cases; 96 percent off isolation
  • 28 percent of Minnesotans with at least one vaccine dose
  • 80.3 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older with at least one vaccine dose

The increasing pace of COVID cases shows the rising urgency now to widen the vaccine eligibility pool.

Officials are increasingly anxious about caseloads tied to the U.K. COVID-19 variant and to youth sports. They’ve confirmed more than 500 cases of the U.K. strain in recent weeks and believe as many half the state’s new cases may be tied to that variant.

‘Vaccine nirvana’ near?

Heading into the weekend, there was no doubt the vaccination pace could use a bump.

The seven-day trend had been stuck at around 40,000 shots daily, roughly what it’s been the past few weeks, before Saturday’s bump.

As of Saturday’s update, more than 936,000 people — about 16.8 percent of the state’s population — have completed their vaccinations while more than 1.5 million — 28 percent — have received at least one dose, including more than 80 percent of people age 65 and older.

For those who’ve received a complete vaccination, the results look good. Of the hundreds of thousands of people completely vaccinated, the state said earlier this week that it’s identified only 89 who’ve subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Department leaders expect a major expansion of vaccine doses the first week in April — enough to give 300,000 Minnesotans their first shot and an additional 200,000 to provide people with a second shot.

That, together with the expanded eligibility, should go a long way to easing the concerns of a new wave, although officials noted the state won’t immediately have all the doses it needs to immediately vaccinate everyone who wants a shot.

“We have not achieved that vaccine nirvana … but we know it’s coming,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Thursday.

South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported seven new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday and has now had 3,047 cases since the start of the pandemic. Of that number, 71 cases are considered active.

The new cases included one person between 15 and 19, one person in their 30s, one person in their 40s, two people in their 50s, one person in their 60s and one person in their 70s.

As of Thursday, 9,464 people in the county had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 5,169 had received the completed series.

The following is an update on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: four new lab-confirmed cases; 1,365 total cases; 4,152 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2,433 had received the completed series.
  • Mower County: nine new lab-confirmed cases; 4,338 total cases; 12,882 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 6,565 had received the completed series. 
  • Steele County: seven new lab-confirmed case, three probable cases; 3,302 total cases; 10,250 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 5,329 had received the completed series.
  • Waseca County: seven new lab-confirmed cases; 2,189 total cases; 5,043 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2,806 had received the completed series.