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Live updates: 479 cases of B.1.1.7 COVID variant found in Minnesota, officials say

Here is the latest on COVID-19 vaccination efforts and availability, case rates and deaths in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Tuesday, March 23  

  • MDH: 479 cases of B.1.1.7 variant identified in Minnesota
  • MDH reports 7 COVID deaths, including person between age 20 and 24
  • Study: AstraZeneca vaccine is 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID, 100% effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. 
  • MDH: More than 25% of Minnesotans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose
  • Mankato gets COVID-19 community vaccination site
  • Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan, MDH Commissioner Malcolm in quarantine after potential COVID exposure

2 p.m.
Health officials gave a regular update on Minnesota's COVID-19 situation, speaking mostly on variants and the concept of "vaccine breakthrough."

On the call, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm reminded listeners that there is a two-week lag period in determining test positivity rates. While the most recent rate is below the state's "caution" level of 5%, Malcolm said it is expected to increase in the next two weeks.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield spoke on COVID-19 variants in the state, saying Minnesota is working to expand its efforts to determine variant prevalence. 

Lynfield said MDH has now identified 479 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the U.K. Based on results from a partner lab that has been sending test specimens for sequencing, she said an estimated 50% to 65% of sequenced COVID-positive specimens tested between March 16 and March 20 were B.1.1.7. She said in the previous period from March 10 to March 15, only 38% to 44% were estimated to be the variant. 

She clarified that while some sequenced samples are random, most are sequenced due to possible connections with other known cases or outbreaks. She said because of that, those percentages are "skewed." However, Lynfield said the rise in prevalence between the two time periods is still a concern. 

Lynfield said only 15% of the people identified with B.1.1.7 cases had traveled recently. She said this indicates widespread transmission within Minnesota. As for severity of B.1.1.7, Lynfield said 5% of those cases identified by MDH resulted in hospitalizations. 

Also on the call, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann spoke on "vaccine breakthrough" -- cases of COVID-19 in people who have been vaccinated. She said Minnesota has only identified 89 breakthrough cases, an "incredibly small" number compared to the amount of people who have been vaccinated.  

11 a.m.

After the first day reporting zero COVID-19 deaths in nearly a year, data released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflects seven fatalities attributed to the virus, including one that claimed the life of a person in their early 20s. 

Young adults make up the largest group of Minnesota's COVID cases with people between 20 and 24 accounting for 49,941 cases and now, four deaths. MDH spokesman Doug Schultz confirmed for KARE 11 that the young person who perished did have a pre-existing condition, but offered no additional information.

The state has now recorded 6,789 total deaths, of which 4,248 involve people connected to long-term care or assisted living settings. 

New COVID cases dipped below the 1,000 mark, with 870 new infections reported in the last day. The new cases are based on a low testing volume of 13,314 (11,884 PCR, 1,430 antigen) processed in private and state labs. 

Credit: KARE

Tuesday is historically the day of the week with the lowest case numbers and testing volume, as the data reflects activity from the previous weekend. Minnesota has now recorded 507,231 total infections, with 27,650 of them identified with antigen tests. Health officials consider a positive antigen test a "probable" COVID case, while a positive PCR test is logged as a confirmed case. 

The number of Minnesotans who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday (latest vaccination data available) is up to 1,437,931, which MDH says is 25.8% of the state's 5.6 million residents. Of that number, 854,827 have completed the two-shot series and are considered fully vaccinated. 

Credit: KARE

Nearly 80% of state residents age 65 and up have received at least one immunization. 

Currently 325 are being treated for COVID in hospitals across the state, 87 of them requiring treatment in the ICU. The number of non-ICU beds available in Twin Cities metro hospital system is 155, a 4.2% vacancy rate. 

Total hospitalizations are up to 26,797, with 5,516 of those patients needing ICU care. MDH says 490,340 people who at one point tested positive for COVID have made enough progress they no longer need to be isolated. 

At the county level, Hennepin County has recorded the most COVID activity with 105,294 cases and 1,634 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 44,421 cases and 834 deaths, Dakota County with 38,231 cases and 405 deaths, and Anoka County with 34,673 cases and 405 fatalities. 

Credit: KARE

 

Monday, March 22

Numbers released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflect another day of new COVID cases over the 1,000 mark.

MDH says 1,152 cases were recorded in the last day, bringing the state total to 506,376 since the start of the pandemic. The new cases are based on results from 19,381 tests (18,001 PCR, 1,280 antigen) processed in private and state labs. Health officials consider a positive PCR test a confirmed COVID case, while a positive antigen test is labeled probable. 

In a piece of good news, no new deaths were reported to the state in the last day. That leaves total fatalities at 6,782, and of those deaths 4,248, or 63% of them are tied to assisted living or long-term care settings.

Minnesota's vaccination effort is unfolding steadily, with 1,430,349 people having received at least one dose of COVID vaccine as of Saturday. That's 25.7% of the state's 5.6 million people. The vaccine dashboard says 850,829 people have completed the two-shot series and are completely vaccinated. 

On Saturday, the most recent day of data available, 13,766 doses of vaccine were administered. 

Total hospitalizations are up to 26,661 since the virus arrived in Minnesota, with 5,494 of those patients requiring ICU care. Currently 318 people are being treated for COVID on an in-patient basis in hospitals across the state. Of those currently hospitalized, 77 are in ICU. Bed availability in the Twin Cities has seen an uptick the past couple of days, with 4.3% of non-ICU beds open for incoming patients. 

MDH says 489,279 people who at one time tested positive for coronavirus have made enough progress that they no longer require isolation.

The number of young adults between 20 and 24 diagnosed with COVID is nearing 50,000. From that age group 49,883 have tested positive for the virus, and three have died. The larges grouping of fatalities involves those between 85 and 89, with 1,284 in 6,439 diagnosed cases. 

Hennepin County has recorded the most COVID activity in the state with 105,097 cases and 1,633 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 44,364 cases and 833 deaths, Dakota County with 38,159 cases and 404 deaths, and Anoka County with 34,611 and 404 fatalities. Those counties are Minnesota's most populated, in order.

Cook County has seen the fewest cases with 135, but that number has been growing bigger in recent days.  

Sunday, March 21

11 a.m. 

Minnesota has passed a vaccine milestone: just over 25% of the state's population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

That percentage is made up of 1,408,601 people. The Minnesota Department of Health said 839,860 of those people are fully vaccinated -- just over 15% of the state's population. Those numbers, reported by MDH on Sunday, are accurate as of Friday. 

As for other new COVID-19 data, MDH reported 956 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, along with five new deaths. That follows four consecutive days of new case totals above 1,000. 

MDH's COVID-19 case definition includes both antigen testing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Positive PCR test results are considered confirmed cases, while positive antigen test results are considered probable cases. 

Sunday's new case total includes 810 confirmed cases and 146 probable cases.

RELATED: What are the different types of coronavirus tests?

The total number of Minnesotans who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began is now 505,224, with 27,335 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says five new deaths from the virus were reported. That pushes the total number of fatalities in Minnesota to 6,782.

To date, 26,651 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,493 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 488,156 people once diagnosed with the virus have passed the point where they are required to isolate.