By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After young elementary school students returned to classrooms Tuesday in the state’s largest district, Minnesota health officials reported 922 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths, bringing the state’s death toll closer to 6,000.

Tuesday’s update from the Minnesota Department of Health says that the state’s cumulative coronavirus case count stands at 448,268 while the overall death toll has reached 5,945. Of the most recent deaths, four were residents in long-term care facilities, the demographic that’s suffered more than 60% of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities.

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Over the last several weeks, Minnesota has been working to inoculate residents in long-term care facilities and frontline health care workers against the virus. According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, more than 200,000 people in these groups have received the first of two doses while 38,258 people have received the complete series. Health officials say they expect all individuals in these groups — about 500,000 people — to have at least been offered the vaccine by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the state is expanding its vaccination rollout this week to include prekindergarten through 12th grade teachers, child care workers and Minnesotans ages 65 and older. Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday that people in these now-eligible groups will begin being vaccinated at nine sites located across the state.

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However, doses available for Minnesotans in these newly-eligible groups are in short supply as the state is waiting on the federal government to provide more of the vaccine. The governor said that the state will siphon off 12,000 of its allotted 60,000 doses for the week to these sites, which open Thursday and operate by appointment only. Minnesotans 65 and older can register to be vaccinated online starting at noon Tuesday, although the governor said the initial demand will be like buying Bruce Springsteen tickets over TicketMaster.

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Educators are being prioritized in the vaccine rollout as schools are planning to return students to classrooms. On Tuesday, the state’s largest district, Anoka-Hennepin, allowed kindergarteners through 2nd graders to return to full-time in-person learning. Older elementary students are expected to return to the classroom in the coming weeks, but middle and high school students will continue at distance learning for the foreseeable future.

In Minnesota hospitals, 584 people were battling COVID-19 as of Monday, with 110 patients in intensive care beds. These numbers continue a steady decline in hospitalizations since numbers peaked in late November, when the governor tightened restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. The restrictions were only loosened last week, allowing bars and restaurants to again serve patrons indoors, youth sports games to continue, and museums and movie theaters to reopen.

In the last 24 hours, 14,467 coronavirus tests were processed in Minnesota. According to the state’s Dial Back Dashboard, the state’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate was just above the 5% “caution” threshold as of Jan. 10. Like the hospitalization numbers, the positivity rate has dropped in recent weeks from a peak reached in November.

Since the start of the pandemic last March, more than 3.1 million people in Minnesota have been tested for the virus. Of those who tested positive, 431,096 have recovered and no longer need to self-isolate.

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Nationally, the U.S. is closing in on 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, the incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that she expects the nation’s death toll to hit 500,000 by the middle of next month.