MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota health officials reported 2,019 cases of COVID and 66 additional deaths on Wednesday.
The new numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health bring the state’s total case count to 413,107. Since the pandemic began in March, 5,262 people have died in the state. Though the majority of deaths impact the elderly population living in long-term care facilities, the disease has also taken younger lives; one of the deaths reported Wednesday involved a person in their late 30’s from Wright County.
The seven-day average positivity rate has been falling in the last few weeks. It had reached 5.3% as of Dec. 21 due to data lag. The positivity rate has not been this low since the first week of October. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Minnesota has one of the lowest seven-day averages for case positivity in the country.
In the last 24 hours, MDH says that 25,729 COVID tests were processed. Due to a blizzard on Dec. 23 and the observation of the Christmas holiday on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, testing sites were closed for the latter portion of last week. They will also be closed again on Thursday and Friday due to the New Year holiday.
Over 5.5 million tests have been processed since March, and over 2.9 million Minnesotans have been tested for the virus.
There are currently 926 people in Minnesota hospitals with the disease, of which 207 are in the ICU. According to the response capacity dashboard, 88% of the ICU beds state-wide are currently in use.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said case grown in Minnesota is down 60% since the peak in mid-November. However, she said testing is down and the state still has a high level of viral spread, even though it is improving.
VACCINES IN MINNESOTA
Minnesota health officials on Wednesday held their last call of the year, providing updates on the administration of the COVID vaccine in the state.
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said the state is still in phase 1A, which is for health care and long-term care facility workers. More than 38,000 Minnesotans have already been vaccinated. She said Minnesotans who are not in a high risk age group, are not an essential worker, and don’t have underlying health conditions should not expect to get the vaccine until late spring or early summer. The next group to be vaccinated, likely in February, will be people over 75.
She also said the vaccine is being distributed at an unprecedented pace considering Wednesday is the one-year mark since the virus was first discovered in China.
“The fact that we even have a vaccine within a year of that first notification is remarkable, and the fact that we’ve vaccinated thousands of people within the state already is even more remarkable,” said Ehresmann. “Of course we all want this to be over and we all want more vaccines to be available right now, but I hope we can keep perspective on how far we’ve come and appreciate the fact that the vaccine is here in our state and people are receiving it.”
Mike Konstantinides, a physician’s assistant at HCMC, got his COVID vaccine a week and a half ago.
“We’ve been waiting for months for this,” Konstantinides said.
Jane Miller, an RN at North Memorial Health hospital, got her first vaccination on Sunday.
“This is a good first step where maybe we can get, you know, this horrible pandemic behind us,” Miller said. “I don’t know of any nurse or health care worker at our hospital who hasn’t had direct contact or had to have direct patient care with someone who’s had COVID.”
Both Miller and Konstantinides are relieved to already have that first layer of protection against this virus.
“I thought, statewide, we seem to be doing a really good job at rolling out the vaccine to those who need it,” Konstantinides said.
Malcolm said she is having daily conversations with Gov. Tim Walz about this trend and how it will impact his decision on indoor dining at the end of his executive order.
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