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Live updates: After one-million milestone, vaccinations still rising in Minnesota

The latest updates on COVID-19 vaccine availability, case rates and deaths in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Sunday, March 7

  • COVID-19 variants found in 15 Minnesota counties, including all seven metro counties
  • Strain of COVID-19 originally found in South Africa detected in Wisconsin
  • Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul to become Minnesota's fifth permanent community vaccination site
  • HealthPartners opens a drive-up vaccine site in Bloomington
  • Vikings partnering with state for COVID vaccine clinic at TCO performance Center in Eagan
  • Walz: First doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in Minnesota Wednesday

One day after a big milestone, Minnesota is moving closer to having 70% of people 65 and older vaccinated. 

According to the office of Gov. Tim Walz, vaccine eligibility in the state will not expand until 70% of Minnesotans ages 65 and older are vaccinated, a goal the state hopes to achieve by the end of March. 

According to numbers released by the Minnesota Department of Health on Sunday, 63.9% of that age group has received at least one vaccine dose. 

RELATED: Walz announces vaccine timeline: Seniors now, all Minnesotans this summer

On Saturday, the state passed the milestone of one million people with at least one vaccine dose. According to Sunday's data, that number has risen to 1,046,077 -- 18.8% of the state's total population. Of that group, a little over half (570,038) have received a completed series of vaccines. 

Sunday's newly-released data is current as of March 5.

Credit: KARE

As for other COVID data, MDH reported 897 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and  4 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. 

Sunday's new case total includes 782 confirmed cases and 115 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 490,011, with 24,464 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says 4 new deaths from the virus were reported. That pushes the total number of fatalities in Minnesota to 6,550.

To date, 25,978 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,364 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 476,055 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 48,651 cases and three deaths, and ages 25-29 follow with 43,719 cases and six deaths. Those between 85 and 89 years old account for the highest number of fatalities in one age group with 1,237 out of
6,264 diagnosed cases.

In terms of likely exposure to the coronavirus, MDH says 110,066 cases were the result of community transmission with no known contact with an infected person, and 101,425 had known contact with a person who has a confirmed case.

A total of 39,222 cases involved exposure in a congregate care setting,
8,019 were in a corrections setting, and 1,186 were in a homeless shelter. MDH data shows 19,017 were linked to an outbreak outside of congregate living or health care.

MDH says 33,788 cases were linked to travel. Health care workers or patients account for 14,890 diagnosed COVID-19 cases. The source of transmission for 162,398 cases is still unknown or missing.

MDH has prioritized testing for people in congregate care, hospitalized patients and health care workers, which may impact the scale of those numbers. However, now MDH is urging anyone who is symptomatic or even asymptomatic to be tested. Testing locations can be found online.

Hennepin County has had the most COVID activity in the state with
101,682 cases and 1,593 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with
43,388 cases and 811 deaths, Dakota County with 36,714 cases and 394 deaths, and Anoka County with 33,545 cases and 392 deaths.

Full data, including a breakdown of PCR and antigen test totals in some categories, can be found on MDH's website.

Saturday, March 6

Minnesota has passed a new milestone, officials say: More than a million people in the state have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. 

In total, the Minnesota Department of Health said 1,016,274 people in the state have received at least one dose -- about 18.3% of the population. Of that group, 543,696 have received both doses. Those totals are from MDH's latest available data, which is current as of Thursday.

In terms of specific age groups, MDH said 61.75% of people 65 years old and older have received at least one dose -- moving the state closer to the 70% benchmark for the next stage of vaccine access.

"Today, on the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in our state, reaching the milestone of getting the vaccine into the arms of one million Minnesotans is particularly poignant," said Governor Walz in a press release. "As we reflect on the past year and the thousands of lives lost, we know that every shot in the arm of a Minnesotan brings us one step closer to ending this pandemic."

Walz called attention to high daily vaccination numbers in the past week, which he attributed to increased supplies coming into Minnesota. 

However, Walz said Minnesota's total vaccine allocation will see a 20% drop next week with no additional Johnson and Johnson vaccines being shipped to the states.

RELATED: Walz announces vaccine timeline: Seniors now, all Minnesotans this summer

As for other COVID-19 data, MDH reported 975 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, along with 12 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. 

Saturday's new case total includes 816 confirmed cases and 159 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 489,116, with 24,349 of those as antigen test results. 

MDH says 12 new deaths from the virus were reported. That pushes the total number of fatalities in Minnesota to 6,546.

To date, 25,976 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus since the pandemic started, with 5,364 of them needing care in the ICU.

MDH reports that 475,170 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 48,587 cases and three deaths, and ages 25-29 follow with 43,650 cases and six deaths. Those between 85 and 89 years old account for the highest number of fatalities in one age group with 1,237 out of
6,263 diagnosed cases.

In terms of likely exposure to the coronavirus, MDH says 109,764 cases were the result of community transmission with no known contact with an infected person, and 101,191 had known contact with a person who has a confirmed case.

A total of 39,201 cases involved exposure in a congregate care setting,
8.011 were in a corrections setting, and 1,186 were in a homeless shelter. MDH data shows 19,017 were linked to an outbreak outside of congregate living or health care.

MDH says 33,696 cases were linked to travel. Health care workers or patients account for 14,874 diagnosed COVID-19 cases. The source of transmission for 162,176 cases is still unknown or missing.

MDH has prioritized testing for people in congregate care, hospitalized patients and health care workers, which may impact the scale of those numbers. However, now MDH is urging anyone who is symptomatic or even asymptomatic to be tested. Testing locations can be found online.

Hennepin County has had the most COVID activity in the state with
101,490 cases and 1,592 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with
43,327 cases and 810 deaths, Dakota County with 36,619 cases and 394 deaths, and Anoka County with 33,496 cases and 391 deaths.

   

Friday, March 5

5 p.m.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) has detected the emergence of a COVID strain originally found in South Africa among the Wisconsin public.

The department says it made the discovery of the new strain, known as B.1.351, on March 4, which is thought by researchers to be more transmissible than the original COVID-19 variant - though it is still unclear if the strain makes infection more severe.

WDHS says the strain from South Africa is similar to a different strain detected in Wisconsin called B.1.1.7, originally detected in the United Kingdom.

They say research is still ongoing as to the impact of these news strains on the efficacy of existing vaccines within the United States - though experts believe all three currently approved US vaccines will still "effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all of the circulating variants" 

WDHS says some evidence exists to suggest the Moderna vaccine may be less effective against the South Africa strain, but did not state to what extent, and findings are only preliminary. 

"It is important to remember that new variants are expected to occur over time. Here in Wisconsin, whole genome sequencing of positive specimens from COVID-19 cases is done on a regular basis," says DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. "Because these variants may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, mask wearing, staying home, physically distancing, and washing your hands continues to be crucial." 

2 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, Governor Tim Walz visited a new community vaccination site at the Minnesota Vikings' Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan. The site is offering the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health care workers and the 65+ age group.

During the visit, Walz expressed his excitement over the new partnership with the Vikings, and praised how quickly the site came together.

"Our timeline for getting folks the vaccine is getting compressed," he said. "Our goal is to get these as close to people as possible, get these vaccines out. Get these Johnson & Johnson shots out, or if you get the chance to take Pfizer or Moderna, take the shot. The more people who take the shot, the closer we are to getting back to normal."

Walz predicted that with the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the state could vaccinate 70% of people 65 years and older by the middle of the month, rather than the end of March as he previously thought. Once the state reaches that milestone, it will move on to vaccinating the next phase of eligible Minnesotans.

He said that he thinks Minnesota is in the "fourth quarter" of the pandemic based on models he's looked at, and the state could be well-positioned to "break the back" of the virus in the next four weeks. According to Walz, the state's expected vaccine supply during that time could vaccinate another 800,000 residents.

He concluded the visit by emphasizing that he believes one of the strongest tools Minnesota has against the virus as new variants emerge is testing. 

"It is spring in Minnesota, that large dark winter is coming to an end," he said. "We've got a few things each of us can do: mask, wash our hands, get tested, stay home if you're sick. And above all else, get signed up and get your vaccine as quick as possible."

1:30 p.m.

Minnesota health officials say clusters of highly infectious coronavirus variants have been found in 15 counties, including all seven metro counties.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the variants have spread between household members and others in the community.

"We are currently investigating clusters of students in middle and high school and student athletes involved in various sports," Lynfield said.

She spoke on a media briefing call Friday afternoon, pleading with people to follow public health guidance. With spring break coming up, Lynfield urged people to delay travel if possible, and if they choose to travel, to quarantine upon return. 

Lynfield said it is "critical" Minnesotans not let down their guard. Even with the vaccine rollout ongoing, she said Minnesota could see another spike in cases over the next few months if people are not careful.

1 p.m.

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are giving an update on vaccines in Minnesota, including details on a new tool targeted to ensure equitable rollout.

11 a.m.

The state vaccine dashboard says that as of the latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), 975,781 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 516,422 people completing the two-shot series. That means 17.5% of Minnesotans have received at least one dose. 

People ages 65 and above make up the largest group of those vaccinated, as 499,974 people have received at least one shot. That's 58.2% of state residents in that demographic.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 813 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, based on results from 37,165 tests (33,971 PCR, 3,194 antigen) processed in private and state labs. Health officials consider a positive PCR test a confirmed COVID case, while a positive antigen test is considered a probable case. 

New case additions bring Minnesota's total to 488,170, with 24,201 of those cases identified by an antigen test. 

Credit: KARE

Health officials say 13 more people died of the virus during the last reporting period. Minnesota's total COVID-related deaths have now risen to 6,534 since the beginning of the pandemic.

As of Thursday, 224 people were being treated in hospitals across the state for COVID, with 57 of them in the ICU. 3.5% of non-ICU hospital beds are available in the Twin Cities metro, and 6.7% of ICU beds in the metro are currently open.

Total hospitalizations have risen to 25,938 since the pandemic began, with 5,352 people having required ICU care. MDH says 474,175 people who once tested positive have recovered to the point they no longer need to isolate. 

Credit: KARE

Young adults 20 to 24 continue to make up the largest group of the state's cases with 48,523 cases and three deaths, while those between 85 and 89 comprise the largest grouping of deaths with 1,233 fatalities in 6,261 diagnosed cases. 

The most COVID cases have been recorded in Hennepin County, 101,285, with 1,589 deaths. Ramsey County reports 43,273 cases and 808 deaths, followed by Dakota County with 36,543 cases and 394 deaths, and Anoka County with 33,430 and 390 deaths. 

Cook County in northeast Minnesota has seen the least COVID activity with just 118 cases and zero fatalities. 

10 a.m.

Two new opportunities to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the Twin Cities metro were announced on Friday.

First, Gov. Tim Walz said that Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul is becoming a permanent community vaccination site, the fifth one in the state. People who have signed up through Vaccine Connector or by calling 833-431-2053 will be notified if they're selected for an appointment.

These community sites are still secondary to eligible Minnesotans finding a vaccine through their provider. They can get help finding providers with vaccines available through this map.

RELATED: Roy Wilkins Auditorium to become permanent COVID vaccine site

Also on Friday, HealthPartners announced that it's opened a drive-up vaccine site at its headquarters in Bloomington.

It will be open seven days a week, and appointments will be required. HealthPartners expects to be able to vaccinate more than 600 patients per day at the Bloomington location, using the newly authorized single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

HealthPartners is only vaccinating people 65 years old and up who have been seen within its health system in the last three years. Invitations are sent randomly through email, text and phone calls. Patients can stay informed about availability at HealthPartners.com/vaccine.

The provider expects to open more drive-up sites as the vaccine supply increases.

Thursday, March 4

11 a.m. 

Data released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Thursday show new COVID case numbers inching closer to the 1,000 mark, part of a weekly pattern that shows both cases and testing volume increasing as the week goes on. 

MDH recorded 949 positive tests in the past day, pushing the total number of cases to 487,374 since the pandemic began. The cases reported Thursday are based on results from 68,840 tests (63,016 PCR, 5,824 antigen) processed in private and state labs.

That testing volume is huge, and there's a reason why. MDH spokesman Doug Schultz says Thursday's testing numbers include results from approximately 31,000 previously unreported tests uncovered by an MDH audit, that revealed four private labs had been failing to properly report test results as they are required to do by law. 

The additions to Thursday's reported tests come from three of those private labs, and MDH expects the number of tests to bump up by approximately 2,300 when the fourth identified lab submits their unreported data.

Schultz says MDH is continuing to investigate the private labs’ failure to follow legal reporting requirements, why they failed to report these tests, and how their failure impacted other COVID data metrics. 

In all, Schultz says 7.5 million COVID-19 tests have been reported in Minnesota, from 215 different labs.

Deaths attributed to COVID are in double digits for the second day in a row, with 14 fatalities reported. That brings Minnesota's total coronavirus deaths to 6,521. 

The state vaccine dashboard says 25,133 people were vaccinated Tuesday (the most recent numbers available) pushing the total number of Minnesotans who have received at least one dose to 948,127. That's 17% of Minnesota's population. MDH says 500,188 people have now completed the two-shot series.

Of those ages 65 and over, 56% have received at least one COVID shot. Governor Walz and state health officials will open vaccinations up to other groups once 70% of those 65-plus have completed the series. 

Minnesota should pass the milestone of 1 million people receiving a first dose within the next few days, as providers dispense new shipments that include more than 45,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson.

According to the state, more than 1.4 million total doses have been given out already.

Total hospitalizations to treat COVID are up to 25,896, with 5,344 of those patients requiring ICU care. 

Young adults between ages 20 and 24 account for the largest group of Minnesota's cases with 48.462. Three people from that age group have died of the virus. The demographic with the most COVID deaths are those between 85 and 89, with 1,232 fatalities in 6,258 diagnosed cases. 

Hennepin County has seen the most COVID activity in the state with 101,110 cases and 1,588 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 43,212 and 805 deaths, Dakota County with 36,478 cases and 392 deaths, and Anoka County with 33,391 cases and 390 deaths.

Cook County reports the least COVID activity with 118 cases since the pandemic arrived in Minnesota.

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, and kare11.com/vaccine for answers to all of your questions about vaccines. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.