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COVID-19 update: Walz set to open vaccine shots to all 16 and older

Minnesota will expand COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all state residents 16 and older starting March 30, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the state’s plan.

The information, which has been communicated to health systems and public health offices around the state, marks a major milestone in Minnesota’s vaccine strategy.

Currently, only certain people with underlying health conditions and jobs that put them at highest risk of getting COVID-19 have been eligible for vaccination.

But in a call with reporters, Health Department leaders said they are expecting 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 doses to provide people with a second shot.

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to unveil the expansion Friday.

The Health Department on Thursday reported about 34,000 more vaccinations, keeping the seven-day trend running at around 40,000 shots daily, roughly what it’s been the past few weeks.

The plateauing pace isn’t necessarily a problem since the state’s federal vaccination shipments are set to jump in April. But it’s a race now to vaccinate Minnesotans quickly to avoid another COVID-19 surge.

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

Still, that bump can’t come soon enough.

Public health leaders are increasingly anxious about cases tied to the U.K. variant and to youth sports. They’ve confirmed 503 cases of the strain in recent weeks and they believe that half the cases in the state may be tied to the U.K. variant.

They’re also keeping a wary eye on several COVID-19 hot spots across the state.

More than 878,000 people — about 15.8 percent of the state’s population — have completed their vaccinations while more than 1.4 million — 26.5 percent — have received at least one dose, including about 79 percent of people age 65 and older.

For those who’ve received a complete vaccination, the results look good so far. Of the more than 850,000 people completely vaccinated, the state’s identified only 89 who’ve subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

By the end of this week, all residents and staff in the state’s long-term care facilities would have had the opportunity to get the complete vaccination series, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday. “This is a very, very positive development,” she added.

 

South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported 13 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and has now had 3,030 cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic. Two cases were removed from the county’s list, according to the Freeborn County Public Health Department.

Seventy-eight cases are considered active, and no new hospitalizations or deaths were reported.

The new cases included two people between 10 and 14, one person in their 20s, one person in their 30s, four people in their 40s, two people in their 50s and three people in their 60s.

According to the Department of Health, 8,587 people in the county had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Tuesday and 4,802 had received the completed series.

The following is an update on other area counties:

  • Faribault County: four new lab-confirmed cases; 1,352 total cases; 3,870 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, 2,077 had received completed series
  • Mower County: 11 new lab-confirmed cases, one new probable case; 4,319 total cases; 12,118 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, 6,222 had received completed series
  • Steele County: 14 new lab-confirmed cases, one probable case; 3,277 total cases; 9,536 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, 5,028 had received completed series
  • Waseca County: nine new lab-confirmed cases; 2,174 total cases; 4,735 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, 2,635 had received completed series