By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Moments after President Joe Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday and addressed the nation’s ongoing struggle with deadly coronavirus pandemic, health officials in Minnesota reported 1,237 more cases of COVID-19 in the state and 34 more deaths.

The latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health shows the state’s cumulative case count has reached 449,492 while the death toll stands at 5,979. Of the most recent deaths reported, 20 were residents in long-term care facilities, the demographic that’s suffered nearly 64% percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

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This week, the state will begin inoculating more Minnesotans against the virus. For the last several weeks, the vaccine rollout has focused on residents in long-term care faculties and frontline healthcare workers. Health officials say they are on track to at least offer the vaccine to all in these groups, about 500,000 people, by the end of the month.

Starting Thursday, nine pilot vaccine sites will open across the state, offering a limited amount of vaccine doses to prekindergarten through 12th grade educators, child care workers and Minnesotans 65 and older. Seniors were able to register online to receive the vaccine Tuesday. In less than 24 hours, those slots filled up. Gov. Tim Walz says the pilot program will expand as more vaccine doses are supplied to the state by the federal government.

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According to the state’s vaccine rollout dashboard, more than 200,000 Minnesotans — 3.5% of the state’s population — have received the first of two vaccine doses. Some 38,258 Minnesotans — about 0.7% of the population — have received the full series.

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In Minnesota hospitals, 579 people were battling the virus as of Tuesday, with 111 patients in intensive care. Following a steady decline from record numbers reached in  late November, hospitalizations are currently at their lowest point in three months.

In the last 24 hours, more than 18,000 COVID-19 tests were processed in the state. Since the pandemic began last March, more than 3.1 million people in Minnesota have been tested for the virus. Among those who’ve tested positive, 432,738 have recovered and no longer need to self-isolate.

Nationally, the coronavirus death toll has surpassed 400,000. In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control, said she expects the fatality count to reach half a million by the middle of next month.

On Tuesday, Biden attended a memorial service for all the Americans felled by COVID-19. The ceremony featured 400 lights around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C.

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“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember,” the president said. “But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation.”