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Live updates: Minnesota reports 1,227 new COVID cases, five more deaths

The latest developments on COVID-19 spread and vaccine progress in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 28

  • Gov. Walz: Every Minnesotan over age 16 is eligible for a vaccine starting March 30
  • After two days above 1,700, new cases in Minnesota lower to 1,227
  • MDH: 28.6% of Minnesota's population at least partially vaccinated 
  • President Biden sets new goal of 200 million doses in 100 days

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, after two consecutive days of new cases over 1,700. 

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 981 confirmed cases and 246 probable cases. 

Meanwhile, the state reports that 1,590,826 people in Minnesota have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- about 28.6% of the state's population. Of that group, 976,061 are fully vaccinated. 

According to MDH, about 80.7% of the state's 65 and older population is at least partially vaccinated. 

RELATED: Walz: All Minnesotans 16 and up eligible for COVID vaccine March 30

The total number of Minnesotans who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began is now 515,058, with 29,038 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says five new deaths from the virus were reported. The total number of fatalities in Minnesota is 6,830.

To date, 27,067 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,568 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 495,463 people once diagnosed with the virus have passed the point where they are required to isolate.

Saturday, March 27 

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 1,744 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, a slight increase from Friday's 1,714 new cases. 

Meanwhile, the state is on the verge of expanding vaccine eligibility to every Minnesotan over age 16, as Gov. Walz announced earlier this week. The change goes into effect on March 30, but demand will be high.

As of Thursday (the latest vaccine data available), MDH said 1,557,636 people in the state have received at least one vaccine dose -- about 28.0%. Of that group, 936,222 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As for specific age groups, MDH said just over 80% of the state's 65 and older population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

MORE INFORMATION: Walz: All Minnesotans 16 and up eligible for COVID vaccine March 30

The total number of Minnesotans who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began is now 513,833, with 28,792 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says four new deaths from the virus were reported. The total number of fatalities in Minnesota is 6,825.

To date, 27,057 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,567 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 494,114 people once diagnosed with the virus have passed the point where they are required to isolate. 

Friday, March 26

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 1,714 new COVID-19 cases Friday, along with seven new deaths.

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. 

Friday's new case total includes 1,443 confirmed cases and 271 probable cases.

The total number of Minnesotans who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began is now 512,097, with 28,506 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says seven new deaths from the virus were reported. The total number of fatalities in Minnesota is 6,821.

To date, 27,000 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,555 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 492,672 people once diagnosed with the virus have passed the point where they are required to isolate.

Of those who have tested positive, people between the ages of 20-24 account for the most cases with 50,406 cases and four deaths, and ages 25-29 follow with 45,561 cases and six deaths. Those between 85 and 89 years old account for the highest number of fatalities in one age group with 1,288 out of
6,455 diagnosed cases.

Hennepin County has had the most COVID activity in the state with 106,347 cases and 1642 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 44,723 cases and 835 deaths, Anoka County with 35,010 cases and 405 deaths, and Dakota County with 38,652 cases and 408 deaths.

RELATED: All Minnesotans over 16 eligible for a COVID vaccine starting March 30

RELATED: Live updates: Only 4.5% of Minnesota's long-term care facilities have had a recent COVID case

Thursday, March 25

Residents of long-term care facilities in Minnesota have been vaccinated at high rates so far, but staff are still lagging.

Minnesota state health officials and leaders in the long-term care industry held a briefing call Thursday to update the public on COVID-19 spread and vaccination progress.

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm began the call by speaking about the more than 1,800 new cases reported Thursday, the highest daily count since early January.

"We do have the potential for another spike in cases and the negative outcomes that flow from that," she said. "And that's why we keep reinforcing the importance of keeping up our vigilance."

Malcolm said the day's cases are a reminder "of how very seriously we have to take this pandemic going forward."

MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said the federal government recently put out a reminder that people cannot be charged for their vaccine.

"We've been saying for months now that the COVID-19 vaccines are no cost to the people getting them, and this continues to be the case," she said.

Ehresmann said providers may seek reimbursement from insurance companies that cover the vaccine, or Medicare or Medicaid. For that reason, people may be asked to provide insurance information.

"But you should not receive any bills after that," Ehresmann said. "The provider may not seek any additional reimbursement."

She said Minnesotans aware of violations are encouraged to report them to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

Malcolm also spoke Thursday about vaccination progress at long-term care facilities in Minnesota, announcing "another bright milestone."

By the end of this week, Malcolm said, "pretty much all" residents and staff in the approximately 2,000 facilities across Minnesota will have had the opportunity to receive both vaccine doses.

"While we've reached 99% of those facilities, it's going to take a little bit of time to get that last 1%," she said, referencing logistical hurdles for some facilities.

Malcolm said not all residents and staff in long-term care have accepted a vaccine, and the numbers are significantly lower for staff than for residents. She said only 54% of staff at skilled nursing facilities and 45% of staff at assisted living facilities have taken the opportunity to be vaccinated.

"Those numbers are obviously not as high as we'd like them to be, or frankly as we need them to be," Malcolm said.

She said MDH has heard from some staff that they were likely to get a vaccine, but didn't want to be first. She said some people wanted to get more information, and "build up their own knowledge base and confidence in getting the vaccine."

"We understand that," Malcolm said. "Nobody needs to feel guilty or embarrassed to have questions about the vaccine. ... Our job in the weeks and months ahead, all of us collectively, especially as we get into a period where there's more vaccine available, is to make sure that our citizens have that information."

Lindsey Krueger, director of MDH's Office of Health Facility Complaints, provided some more detailed data on vaccinations in long-term care. She said all nursing homes in Minnesota have had the opportunity to have three vaccination clinics for staff and residents. Ninety-nine percent of assisted-living type facilities have had two clinics, and 54% of those have had an opportunity to have a third.

Only 62 nursing homes, 17% of all those in the state, have had a COVID case in the last 14 days. Thirty-one assisted living type facilities, or 2% of Minnesota's total, have had a case in the last 14 days. Overall, Krueger said, this means 4.5% of long-term care facilities in Minnesota have had a COVID case in the last 14 days.

Several long-term care leaders from around the state also spoke on the call.

Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of Leading Age Minnesota, said her residents and staff were among the first Minnesotans to be vaccinated.

"We do see it as our role and responsibility not only to encourage vaccination, but to share vaccination facts, to listen carefully to concerns ... to provide one-on-one support and reassurance to help build confidence in the vaccine," she said.

Kvenvold said Leading Age Minnesota is launching a peer-to-peer network where staff who have been vaccinated can help answer questions and encourage their coworkers who are hesitant.

"We believe that we will continue to see vaccinations rise with each respectful conversation that we are having," Kvenvold said.

Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, said her residents have had a high rate of acceptance of the vaccine.

"So many in our communities have been vaccinated against the virus," she said, allowing Care Providers of Minnesota to invite more visitors in with fewer restrictions "and with a great deal of joy."

Cullen said the efficacy of the virus is evident in both dropping cases, and fewer deaths in their facilities.

"We celebrated greatly the day we saw zero in our settings again," she said.

Cullen said their staff are beginning to gain confidence in the vaccine as well.

"We need to encourage staff to increase the safety of all in our facilities by getting a vaccine, and we are working hard on that," she said. "We know the willingness of long-term care staff continues to increase."

Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic health care workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 no longer have to quarantine for 14 days, Cullen said, which provides another incentive for staff to get the vaccine.

Matt McNeill, director of Senior Living for StuartCo, said more than 75% of their staff have been vaccinated and 100% of residents.

In late February, he said, there was a breakthrough case. As of this afternoon, they are back to zero positive cases.

"My hope is together we can tell more stories, meet with more team members one-on-one and understand vaccine hesitance," he said. "They have given so much of themselves to others in this last year. It is now our job to support them."

McNeill compared the current COVID-19 climate to the last leg of a marathon.

"We must stay strong," he said.

RELATED: Biden doubles goal of COVID vaccines to 200 million doses

Ehresmann said she believes Minnesota's vaccine allocation will soon increase to 304,000 doses per week, but that has not yet come to fruition.

"It's definitely an increase in terms of what we have been receiving, and we are just eagerly waiting to get to that point," Ehresmann said.

She said the number of doses allocated to Minnesota this week, which will ship next week, are not yet showing that increase.

Malcolm said even as the state makes decisions to expand eligibility, providers can still determine their own priority levels within that.

"There is an important difference for folks to understand; your eligibility and your place in line," she said. 

Malcolm pointed out that the president has already said every adult should be eligible by May 1, and Gov. Tim Walz wants to be ahead of that goal.

"The good news is, there's going to be enough vaccine for everyone who wants to get it, and much sooner than we thought," Malcolm said. Still, she said, the state wants to continue prioritizing higher-risk residents.

Malcolm said overall MDH wants vaccinators to be able to be more flexible to "not slow down" and meet the specific needs in their communities.

Ehresmann said as of Thursday, 503 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Minnesota. 

"That does not represent the sum total of the circulation," she said. "In fact we think that probably over half of the cases in the state may be due to B.1.1.7. at this point." 

The testing for B.1.1.7. is limited, with only random samples being tested every week.

RELATED: White House COVID-19 Response Team updates public of virus response

RELATED: Officials say 89 fully vaccinated Minnesotans tested positive for COVID-19