MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A day after the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Minnesota, state officials reported on Thursday 949 more cases of the virus and 14 more deaths.
It’s been nearly a year since the virus was first confirmed in Minnesota. The latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health shows the state’s cumulative coronavirus case count stands at 487,374 while the death toll has reached 6,521.
About 63% of the state’s recorded fatalities have been of residents in long-term care facilities. Of the most recent deaths reported, seven were in long-term care. All of the victims were 60 or older; two were in their early 90s.
Meanwhile, the state’s vaccine rollout is ramping up. On Wednesday, more than 45,000 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in Minnesota. On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz announced that the Vikings training facility in Eagan will be used as a community vaccination site for the new vaccine over the next few days.
Since the state’s vaccination campaign started late last year, 1,450,360 shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered in the state. Both of those vaccines require two shots to be fully effective.
As of Tuesday, 17% of the state’s population (948,127 people) have received one vaccine shot while 9% of the population (500,188 people ) have received the full series. Currently, the groups eligible for shots are residents in long-term care, health care workers, child care workers, educators, and Minnesotans ages 65 and older.
The governor says the state’s rollout will expand to include Minnesotans with serious underlying health conditions and certain essential workers once 70% of seniors are vaccinated. Currently, nearly 56% of seniors have received at least one vaccine shot.
With the availability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot, the state’s rollout campaign could be sped up, the governor said. Even so, Walz expects that all adults in Minnesota should expect to be able to get a vaccine shot by summer.
When asked Wednesday about a return to normal summer activities, the governor said that the future looks “promising,” particularly for late summer events, like the Minnesota State Fair.
In the last 24 hours, 68,840 COVID-19 tests were processed in Minnesota, suggesting a daily positivity rate of 1.3%. According to the state’s Dial Back Dashboard, the seven-day rolling average positivity rate was at 3.5% as of Feb. 22. That’s the lowest it’s been since June.
Since the virus was first reported in Minnesota on March 5, 2020, nearly 3.5 million people have been tested in the state. Of those who tested positive, 473,728 of them have recovered and no longer need to self-isolate.
While daily COVID-19 counts, hospitalizations and deaths have been relatively low for weeks, health officials say it’s still important for people to get tested, wear masks and practice social distancing. Families with students in classrooms are encouraged to get tested every two weeks until the end of the school year.
Travel is not advised for spring break. Officials fear a possible surge in cases, particularly with the circulation of new variants.