Cases in Minnesota receding; vaccination pace is languishing

Published 2:19 pm Friday, June 4, 2021

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Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to show the pandemic receding, although the goal of getting at least one vaccine dose into 70 percent of the state’s 16-and-older population by July 1 is turning into a challenge.

Officials remain hopeful, noting that the 70% goal has been reached already in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Outside the region, however, it’s only about 57 percent. At the current pace, Minnesota might not hit 70% until late July.

Overall, though, the disease metrics are looking good in the early days of June. Falling daily case counts and low positive test rates are signaling the COVID-19 virus is less prevalent in Minnesota than at any time since the pandemic’s first month or so.

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Active cases, hospitalizations receding

How quickly have conditions improved? Friday’s state Health Department report showed Minnesota’s averaging only 231 new cases a day over the past seven reporting days. A month ago, it topped 1,500 a day.

Meanwhile, the count of known, active COVID-19 cases stayed below 2,500 for the third consecutive reporting day — the first time that’s happened since April 2020.

There are 252 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 66 in intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their spring peaks. In late April, hospitalizations were approaching 700 people, with more than 200 in ICUs.

Average daily hospital admissions have fallen by about half over the past two weeks.

Eight newly reported deaths on Friday put Minnesota’s pandemic toll at 7,445. Among those who have died, about 60% had been living in long-term care or assisted-living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

Deaths outside of long-term care have seen a significant drop recently. They’re averaging three per day now compared to nine daily deaths a month ago.

The state’s recorded 602,134 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 257 posted Friday.

About 98% of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to isolate.

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. Case counts had crept up across the state during April, but now they are low and plunging in every age group and every region.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 111,000 since the pandemic began.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry they can spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.

Vaccination pace sliding

The vaccination pace has been struggling to regain its traction the past six weeks and is now declining rapidly. The seven-day shot average is running at a little less than 16,000 a day, close to where it was in late January, near the start of the vaccination effort.

More than 2.8 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose. More than 2.6 million have completed their vaccinations as of Friday’s update.

That works out to about 59.5% of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 64.9% with at least one shot, including 90% of those 65 and older.

Minnesota’s seen notable growth in the number of children ages 12 to 15 getting vaccinated since mid-May, when federal authorities approved the Pfizer vaccine for use at those ages.

Health Department data shows more than 80,000 12-to-15-year-olds with at least one dose. That’s about 28% of that population already with at least one shot. The pace, though, has dropped off significantly following the early surge.

State public health leaders have been pleading with those still not vaccinated to get their shots. Eligible Minnesotans can now walk in for a COVID-19 vaccination without an appointment at the state’s community vaccination program locations.

Gov. Tim Walz last week rolled out incentives, including state park passes and Minnesota State Fair tickets, to nudge people to get their shots. Around 2,000 people have registered to get an incentive so far, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Wednesday.


South-central Minnesota update

Freeborn County reported two new COVID-19 cases on Friday and now has 11 active cases. The new cases were people in their 20s and 30s.

One day this week, the number of active cases in the county dipped below 10.

As of Wednesday, 14,030 people in Freeborn County had received at least one vaccine dose, and 12,946 received the completed series.

The following is an update on vaccine efforts in other area counties:

• Faribault County: 6,178 with at least one dose, 5,621 with completed series

• Mower County: 19,728 with at least one dose, 17,823 with completed series

• Steele County: 17,531 with at least one dose, 15,702 with completed series

• Waseca County: 8,392 with at least one dose, 7,613 with completed series