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Live updates: MDH data indicates COVID hospitalizations, cases trending upwards

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

ST PAUL, Minn. — Wednesday, March 24  

  • 93 patients in ICU with COVID-19, most since late January
  • 479 cases of B.1.1.7 variant identified in Minnesota
  • More than 26% of Minnesota's population vaccinated
  • Study: AstraZeneca vaccine is 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID, 100% effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. 

Both hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and new cases of the virus are trending upwards, according to data released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health. 

As of Tuesday, 332 people were hospitalized with COVID, 93 of them with symptoms severe enough to require treatment in the ICU. That is the highest number since January 28, when 95 patients were receiving ICU care. 

Total hospitalizations have climbed to 26,859 since the pandemic arrived in Minnesota. 

MDH says 1,323 new cases were reported in the past day, up from 870 one day earlier. State health officials have said they are worried about a resurgence in both cases and hospitalizations, and on Tuesday talked about spread of the B.1.1.7 variant. 

Credit: KARE

Nine more people have died from COVID, bringing fatalities in the state to 6,798. 

Minnesota is on the cusp of having 1.5 million people at least partially vaccinated. As of Tuesday (the most recent data available) 1,454,834 people had received at least one vaccination, 26.2% of Minnesota's 5.6 million residents. The number of people vaccinated goes up significantly as the week progresses, and it is likely the state will reach 1.5 million in the next few days. 

 MDH says 862,955 people have completed the two-shot series and are considered fully vaccinated. 

Credit: KARE

The number of COVID cases involving young adults 20 to 24 has crossed a dubious milestone: Health officials report 50,061 infections in that demographic, and four deaths. The largest group of fatalities is among those 85 to 89, with 1,285 deaths in just 6,448 diagnosed cases.

Minnesota's four most-populated counties have reported the most COVID activity. Hennepin County has recorded 105,561 cases and 1,638 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 44,526 cases and 835 deaths, Dakota County with 38,352 cases and 406 deaths, and Anoka County with 34,745 cases and 405 deaths. 

Cook County, the sixth-least populated county in the state, reports 135 cases and zero deaths since the start of the pandemic. 

Credit: KARE

Tuesday, March 23  

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 Tuesday's 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. 

RELATED: When will Minnesota open vaccine eligibility to all adults?

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