By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the last 24 hours, Minnesota counted another 1,513 new cases of COVID-19, keeping in track with the decreasing daily case counts of the last few weeks. However, health officials on Wednesday also reported another 75 fatalities in what’s already been the deadliest month since the pandemic began.

According to the latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health, the state’s total COVID-19 case count stands at 402,519 while the death toll is now at 4,971. Since the start of this month, 1,378 people have died of the virus in Minnesota.

Of the most recent deaths, 45 of the victims were residents in long-term care facilities. Those in long-term care have accounted for about 65% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota. Because of this, those in long-term care have been given priority for the recently-approved COVID-19 vaccines. Next week, CVS Health plans to have workers dispatched to nearly 600 long-term care facilities in Minnesota to begin to inoculate residents and workers.

In Minnesota hospitals, 1,060 people were battling COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 228 patients in intensive care beds. These numbers are down significantly compared to three weeks ago, when more than 1,800 people were hospitalized, with nearly 400 people in intensive care.

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Also in recent weeks, the state’s seven day average positivity rate has dropped below the “high risk” threshold, from 13.1% on Nov. 30 to 8.4% on Dec. 13. Daily new cases and hospitalizations per 100,000 residents have also dropped sizably since early November.

Last week, the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were received and administered to frontline health care workers. So far, 4,000 frontline health care workers have been given their first of two vaccination doses. According to officials, 250,000 doses of the Pfizer and the newly-approved Moderna vaccine are expected to reach Minnesota by the end of the month.

Other than frontline health care workers, the first to receive the vaccine in Minnesota will be residents and workers in long-term care facilities. Those in this top priority group should expect to have received shots by the end of January. According to officials, the vaccines are expected to be available to the general public for several months.