COVID-19 update: Minnesota’s spring COVID-19 wave receding

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Governor calls child’s death ‘heartbreaking’

The state’s newest COVID-19 numbers offer more evidence that the recent upswing in active cases may have crested. That hopeful news, though, comes with a sad reminder of the pandemic’s pain: A first grader died Sunday from COVID-19 complications.

Active cases receding

The retreat of known, active cases in Minnesota continues. The count came in at 14,317 in Tuesday’s numbers — the lowest since March 31 and down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April.

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Given the state’s vaccination efforts, officials said they didn’t expect this spring wave would match the 50,000 active cases seen at the top of the late November surge, but they remained worried given the rise in new COVID-19 strains.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive continues to dip after a recent upswing. The trend line on Tuesday remained just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Overall hospitalizations had been climbing the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January. Tuesday’s numbers showed 641 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 184 needed intensive care.

Both figures are down from the prior week. Hospitalizations often stay higher for several weeks following an increase in active cases.

Twelve deaths reported Tuesday brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,091.Among those who have died, about 61 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state has recorded 570,518 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,088 posted Tuesday. About 96 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.

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. Case counts had been creeping up the past few weeks across the state, but the trend appears to have peaked.

Vaccination pace leveling out

Minnesota’s vaccination pace continues to plateau as officials work now to reach out to those who haven’t been vaccinated.

More than 2.4 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and more than 1.8 million Minnesotans have completed their vaccinations, as of Tuesday’s update.

That works out to about 41 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 56 percent with at least one shot, including 86 percent of those 65 and older.

The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which federal authorities paused earlier this month as they investigated the possibility of rare side effects associated with the shot.

The pace may pick up, after federal health officials on Friday lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Daily vaccine shots fell below 15,000 for the first time in more than a month. Shots peaked at nearly 90,000 a day just three weeks ago.

Youth counts a concern

While the numbers are improving, officials continue to emphasize that the pandemic is not over.

Minnesota officials say they want more testing of middle and high school students because they’re increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people, particularly those playing youth sports.

State health and education officials last week posted updated guidance urging athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers and other youth sports participants to get tested weekly for COVID-19.

Students not participating in sports or other group activities are “still strongly encouraged” to test every two weeks, they said. Middle and high schools are being advised to offer on-site testing.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 106,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 55,000 among those ages 20 to 24.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 46,000 15-to-19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry they will spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations. Those with the COVID-19 virus can spread it when they don’t have symptoms.

Walz: Child’s death ‘simply heartbreaking’

A child who died Sunday in southwestern Minnesota from COVID-19 complications was a first grader at Park Side Elementary School in Marshall.

“I recognize this is scary and concerning for many,” Jeremy Williams, the school district superintendent, wrote in a letter to parents. “We encourage you to continue to watch your students for any signs of COVID. If your student begins to show symptoms, please bring them in to be tested right away.”

Williams said the district has been following all state and federal COVID-19 guidelines, and is providing crisis support to those who need it.

More than 56,000 kids age 14 and under in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. More than 400 of those children have been hospitalized; 99 have been admitted to intensive care. Three children have now died from complications of the disease.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Monday that the child didn’t have any underlying health conditions. Gov. Tim Walz offered his condolences.

“It is simply heartbreaking to hear that COVID-19 has taken the life of someone so young,” Walz said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. There is no grief more profound than the loss of family.”

South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported six new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, increasing the cumulative case count to 3,348. Of that number, 68 are considered active cases.

The new cases included one person between 5 and 9, one person between 10 and 14, one person between 15 and 19, one person in their 20s, one person in their 40s and one person in their 60s.

As of Sunday, 12,359 people in Freeborn County had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 9,628 had received the completed series.

The following is an update on other area counties:

• Faribault County: two new lab-confirmed cases; 1,477 total cases; 5,424 people with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 4,562 with completed series

• Mower County: seven new lab-confirmed cases; 4,551 total cases; 17,341 with at least one vaccine dose, 14,118 with completed series

• Steele County: 14 new lab-confirmed cases; 3,724 total cases; 14,890 with at least one vaccine dose, 10, 745 with completed series

• Waseca County: one new lab-confirmed case; 2,335 total cases; 7,180 with at least one vaccine dose, 5,383 with completed series