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Vaccination pace stumbles; pandemic data stable

Minnesota officials believe they’re in race now to vaccinate Minnesotans quickly enough to avoid another statewide COVID-19 surge. But the pace of vaccinations continues to struggle for traction.

The Health Department on Tuesday reported about 7,500 new vaccinations, down from more than 20,000 the prior Tuesday and one of the lowest counts over the past month. The seven-day trend is now running just below 40,000 shots daily.

It’s not necessarily a problem as the state expects to see federal vaccine shipments jump in coming weeks. Right now, though, the overall trend is flat to declining following an early March jump.

Nearly 730,000 people — 13.1 percent of the state’s population — have completed their vaccinations, while more than 1.2 million — nearly 23 percent — have received at least one dose, including more than 75 percent of people age 65 and older.

Officials continue to urge Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease, wearing masks in public gathering spaces and socially distancing.

Pandemic metrics mostly stable; Carver County concerns

Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers show disease conditions continue to stay mostly stable, although there has been a noticeable rise recently in the number of known, active cases. Sunday saw a one-month high, although the count ticked down on Tuesday to 8,235.

While the overall trend remains flat and current counts are still very low compared to late November and early December, the increase is notable given the concerns about the rise of the U.K. COVID-19 strain in Minnesota.

Hospitalization rates remain mostly steady at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases: 260 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday with 59 needing intensive care.

Two newly reported deaths brought Minnesota’s collective pandemic death toll to 6,749. 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 has recorded 498,926 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 716 posted Tuesday. About 97 percent 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.

State public health leaders remain anxious about a Carver County outbreak that includes the very contagious U.K. strain. Twelve people have been hospitalized statewide from that strain; two have died.

“We are very concerned about this (U.K.) variant and its rapid spread. It has the potential to be a setback to our continued and hard-fought progress against the disease,” Dan Huff, an assistant health commissioner, told reporters Monday.

With more than 250 cases of the U.K. variant confirmed statewide, it has the potential to spread throughout the state unless checked, Huff said. “We’re so close to the light at the end of the tunnel …. but this thing’s not over.”

The state is recommending young people across the state be tested every two weeks for COVID-19, with student athletes tested weekly; officials are also asking everyone in Carver County to get tested.

South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported seven new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, increasing its cumulative total to 2,953.

Of that total, 79 are active cases. One new hospitalization was reported.

The new cases included one person between 15 and 19, two people in their 20s, one person in their 30s, two people in their 40s and one person in their 70s.

The Minnesota Department of Health stated as of Friday, 7,039 people in Freeborn County had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday, and 3,344 have received the completed series.

The following is an update on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: six new lab-confirmed cases; 1,298 total cases; 3,394 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 1,722 have received completed series
  • Mower County: six new lab-confirmed cases, one probable case; 4,227 total cases; 9,720 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 4,578 have received completed series
  • Steele County: six new lab-confirmed cases, one probable case; 3,144 total cases; 8,062 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 3,514 have received completed series
  • Waseca County: one probable case; 2,138 total cases; 4,202 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 2,101 have received completed series