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Live updates: Minnesota COVID deaths jump to 34, 1,237 new cases reported

Here are the latest updates on COVID-19 in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Wednesday, Jan. 20 

  • COVID-19 deaths jump from 6 to 34
  • MDH announces all current appointments filled for COVID-19 vaccine pilot program
  • Officials: 6,000 Minnesotans 65 and older, nearly 6,000 educators or child care workers secure appointments for both vaccine doses
  • State website crashes as eligible Minnesotans scramble to book vaccine appointments
  • Over 200,000 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

11 a.m.

Both COVID-19 deaths and new cases of the virus registered an uptick Wednesday, according to numbers released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

An additional 34 Minnesotans have lost their lives to the virus, significantly more than the 6 reported Tuesday. The state's death toll now stands at 5,979 since the start of the pandemic. Of those deaths 3,810, or 64% of them, are tied to long-term care or assisted living settings. 

MDH recorded 1,237 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day, based on results from 18,393 tests (14,745 PCR, 3,648 antigen) processed in private and state labs. Testing volume remains low. 

The total of cases reported in the state now stands at 449,492. 

Credit: KARE

The state vaccine dashboard says 200,840 people have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, while 38,521 have completed the two-dose series. Those numbers should begin going up more rapidly as Minnesota embarks on a new COVID-19 vaccine pilot program that will begin vaccinations across the state tomorrow. 

Minnesota health care providers have received 479,525 shipped doses of vaccine, with another 117,100 coming to the state as part of a federal long-term care vaccination program. As of Wednesday, 40.2% of the doses shipped to Minnesota have been used. 

The number of beds at hospitals across the state being used to care for COVID patients remains fairly steady, with 570 currently in use (111 for patients in ICU). Bed availability remains tightest in the Twin Cities metro, where just 3.3% of all non-ICU beds are currently available to patients. ICU beds are slightly better at 7.0%. Availability is also low in the southeastern part of the state. 

Total hospitalizations from the coronavirus now stand at 23,608, with 4,913 of those patients requiring care in the ICU.

Credit: KARE

MDH says 432,738 people who at one time tested positive for COVID no longer require isolation. 

The largest number of deaths from the virus involves those between ages 85 and 89, with 1,133 in 5,906 diagnosed cases. Young adults 20 to 24 account for the largest number of cases with 45,367 and three fatalities, followed by people 25 to 29 with 40,443 cases and six deaths. 

Hennepin County has recorded the most COVID activity with 93,303 cases and 1,483 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 40,134 and 741 deaths, Dakota County with 33,159 cases and 344 deaths, and Anoka County with 31,061 and 365 fatalities.

Cook County in northeastern Minnesota has the least COVID activity with 115 cases and zero deaths. 

10 a.m. 

State health officials announced Wednesday that all available appointments for a new COVID-19 vaccine pilot project have been filled for the week. 

The pilot is an attempt by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to get teachers, child care workers and Minnesotans 65 or older quicker access to vaccinations. The program launched Tuesday, and response was so overwhelming that a state website crashed and special phone lines set up to make appointments did not work for many. 

When things stabilized, MDH says 6,000 Minnesotans ages 65 and up were able to secure appointments for two doses of vaccine at one of nine pilot clinics set up across the state. Nearly 6,000 additional K-12 educators, school staff and child care employees reserved appointments for the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine series. 

Vaccinations will be administered Thursday, Jan. 21 through Saturday, Jan. 23. MDH asks people without appointments to not show up at clinic sites, as they will be turned away.

MDH spokesman Doug Schulz says all slots on the waiting list for appointments are also full for the week. More appointments are expected to become available as Minnesota receives more doses of vaccine in coming weeks. 

Tuesday, Jan. 19 

2 p.m.

Minnesota health officials are giving an update on the state's COVID-19 situation, as well as its vaccination efforts. 

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the weekly change in cases has continued to decline, and the past week's testing positivity rate has decreased.

 Speaking about Tuesday's low new case number (922), she said new case numbers were often low on Tuesdays due to decreased testing on the weekends -- especially following a three-day holiday weekend. 

MDH director Kris Ehresmann spoke on Minnesota's new vaccine expansion pilot, which will provide a limited number of doses to teachers, child care workers and Minnesotans 65 and older. She cautioned that the program is very limited, and that demand is "certain" to exceed supply. 

Available appointments will refresh at noon next Tuesday, Ehresmann said. She added that eligible Minnesotans can schedule appointments for both their first and second doses. 

Ehresmann cautioned that the pilot program's vaccines are only available by appointment. People who go to a program site without an appointment will be asked to leave.

RELATED: State website, phone lines to book COVID vaccine appointments struggle under load

A state website portal where Minnesotans could request appointments opened Tuesday at noon, but many reported technical issues accessing the site. 

Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes said the "extremely" high traffic to the site "exceeded expectations," and that it received more than 1.1 million traffic hits. Tomes said the state will learn from the situation and try to make the process easier.  

Tomes added that as of 2 p.m., over 6,100 appointments have been processed. 

Tomes was asked whether Minnesota is reconsidering its partnership with Primary Bio, the vendor the state is working with for the pilot program's appointment request site. Tomes responded that Tuesday's issues happened nationwide. He said while the state plans to follow up with the vendor about the issue, officials have no intentions of ending the partnership.

Asked whether a Minnesotan on the waitlist will need to log onto the site again next week, Ehresmann said yes. She explained that waitlist slots are for situations where a person does not show up to their appointment. If a Minnesotan is on the waitlist but is not called in for an appointment that week, they will need to try again the following Tuesday. 

11 a.m.

Numbers released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflect that new COVID-19 cases and fatalities from the virus appear to be moving in the right direction. 

State health officials say 922 coronavirus cases were reported in the past day, the second straight day they've been solidly under the 1,000 mark. However, those new cases are based on a low volume of 14,467 tests (12,744 PCR, 1,723 Antigen) processed in private and state labs. 

Health experts consider a positive PCR test a confirmed COVID case, while a positive antigen test is considered a probable case. 

Minnesota has now recorded a total of 448,268 cases since the pandemic began, with 18,034 of those identified by antigen tests. 

Six more people have died of coronavirus, bringing the state's total fatalities from the virus to 5,945. It's the first time in 9 days that Minnesota's COVID death total has been in single digits.

Credit: KARE

As of Monday, 584 hospital beds across Minnesota were being used to treat coronavirus patients (110 of those in the ICU), continuing a slow but steady decline in hospitalizations. In the Twin Cities, metro bed availability was up slightly for both non-ICU (4.4%) and ICU beds (8.1%). Total hospitalizations have climbed to 23,517, with 4,895 of those patients requiring treatment in the ICU.

MDH says 431,096 people who at one time tested positive for the virus no longer require isolation.

Credit: KARE

The state's vaccine dashboard says 200,130 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 38,258 people completing the two-shot vaccine series. 

State officials say 407,575 doses have been shipped to Minnesota health care providers, while another 109,100 have been shipped for use in a federal long-term care vaccination program. The percentage of doses the state has received that have actually been given to patients is getting close to the 50% mark, listed at 46.2% as of Tuesday. 

Starting Tuesday, Minnesotans eligible for a new vaccination expansion program could request limited appointments. However, the MDH website where people could request appointments was down as of noon.

Young adults continue to account for the largest grouping of coronavirus in the state, with those in the 20 to 29 age bracket recording 85,584 cases. That's nearly 20% of Minnesota's total. The largest number of deaths involves people 85 to 89 years old, with 1,124 fatalities in just 5,895 diagnosed cases. 

Hennepin County is now up to 93,101 cases and 1,480 deaths from the coronavirus, followed by Ramsey County with 40,016 cases and 739 deaths, Dakota County with 33,072 cases and 340 deaths, and Anoka County with 30,999 cases and 364 fatalities.

Cook County in northeastern Minnesota has recorded the least COVID activity with 114 cases and zero deaths.