COVID-19 update: Vaccinations accelerate; 14 new cases in Freeborn County

Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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Vaccination acceleration may finally be here.

The Health Department on Wednesday reported about 32,000 new vaccinations in Minnesota, nearly twice the number from last Wednesday. The seven-day trend is running at nearly 39,000 shots daily now, the highest since vaccinations began in late December.

State public health leaders have said for weeks that they’d be ready to ramp up when they got more supply. With the federal government now promising enough vaccine to inoculate every adult American by the end of May — two months earlier than expected — the table seems set.

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About 16% of Minnesotans age 16 and older — more than 928,000 people — had received at least one dose as of Wednesday’s Health Department update, with 484,383 — about 8.7% — completely vaccinated.

By Thursday, the total number of Minnesotans reported completely vaccinated should eclipse the total number of known, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the entire pandemic.

At the current rate, 80 percent of Minnesota adults should be able to get at least one shot by late June.

The inoculation picture here brightened with the addition of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot. More than 45,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine should be distributed in Minnesota this week.

“We view Johnson & Johnson as a game changer that will help us to quickly provide immunity to even more Minnesotans,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Tuesday.

Fifty-four percent of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot currently, according to Health Department calculations. That’s important since officials have said the state will expand vaccination eligibility when 70 percent of that population gets a first dose.

Gov. Tim Walz has vowed that every Minnesotan should be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot by the summer.

Minnesota currently ranks 16th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials on Tuesday said that 84% of Minnesota’s nursing home residents had received at least an initial dose while 69% had been completely vaccinated; 89% of assisted living residents had at least one dose while 63% received the complete series.

Pandemic metrics hold steady

While the pace of vaccinations is picking up, Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show the state stable in a good way.

Hospitalization rates remain encouraging at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases. The Health Department on Tuesday reported 243 people in Minnesota hospitals with COVID-19, with 57 needing intensive care, staying down at relatively low levels.

Known, active cases came in at 6,675, continuing a trend that stayed fairly stable through February and remains down dramatically from late November and early December, when active cases hovered around 50,000.

Seventeen newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,507. Among those who’ve died, about 62 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state has recorded 486,434 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 788 reported Wednesday. About 97% of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.

Long-term care facilities were once the epicenter of the disease, but cases have plummeted to levels not seen since early in the pandemic, said Lindsey Krueger, director of the state’s office of health facility complaints.

Ninety-six percent of facilities are allowing visitors now, she told reporters Tuesday. Shortages of health care workers at the facilities had also been a major concern early on, but the state’s emergency operations center currently has no requests for help on staffing, she added.

Officials continue to implore Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease. They remain concerned about COVID-19 strains with the potential to spread. Minnesota has 112 confirmed cases of the so-called U.K. variant and two cases of the Brazil variant.

South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County on Wednesday reported 14 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and one new hospitalization in the daily update from the county health department.

The county has now had 2,819 cumulative cases, of which five were recently added from other counties. Of the total, 69 are considered active cases.

The total deaths remains at 23.

The health department stated the new cases included one person 4 or under, one person between 10 and 14, two people between 15 and 19, two people in their 20s, three people in their 30s, two people in their 40s, two people in their 60s and one person in their 70s.

As of Monday, Freeborn County had 5,054 people who had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, and 2,025 with the completed series, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The following is an update on other area counties:

• Faribault County: four new lab-confirmed cases; 1,234 total cases

• Mower County: nine new lab-confirmed cases, one probable case; 4,057 total cases

• Steele County: nine new lab-confirmed cases, two probable cases; 3,015 total cases

• Waseca County: six new lab-confirmed cases; 2,093 total cases