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Live updates: 2,019 additional COVID-19 cases, 66 deaths in Minnesota Wednesday

Here are the latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine effort in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, Dec. 30

  • 2,019 additional COVID-19 cases, 66 deaths reported Wednesday
  • 38,284 vaccines administered so far in Minnesota
  • MN first responders start to receive COVID-19 vaccine

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 2,019 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, which marks an increase following lower case numbers in recent days due to reduced testing volume over the holiday weekend. MDH also reported 66 new deaths on Wednesday. 

In total, 413,107 Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began and 5,262 people have died. According to state health officials, 21,748 people have been hospitalized with 4,597 of them needing care in the ICU.

In the department's final regular media briefing of 2020, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said MDH is pleased to see lower case numbers and hospital bed use for COVID patients in recent weeks following a peak in November. Malcolm said MDH will continue to watch key metrics closely in January following December holiday gatherings, but said the absence of a surge after Thanksgiving shows Minnesotans have been taking appropriate actions to curb the spread of the virus.

Infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann noted that MDH is now providing daily updates on the number of Minnesotans vaccinated for COVID-19. 

MDH said 38,284 people across the state have been vaccinated, including 37,654 people who have received the Pfizer vaccine and 589 who have received the Moderna vaccine. 

Updated figures on the MDH website also show more than 169,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine have been allocated to Minnesota, along with more than 127,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Ehresmann said the distribution figures (the number of doses allocated by the federal government to providers) and administration data (the number of vaccines given to people as reported to a state database) are not necessarily a direct comparison.

"Even once vaccine arrives at its final destination, there are processes that the sites need to follow to get things ready before giving vaccines," Ehresmann said. "So vaccine is not just coming into the state and sitting. It's moving to where it needs to go, then providers are administering it. And even after administering, there's a period of time before those doses get reported (to us) to report to you."

Ehresmann also said the COVID-19 vaccination set-up is different than a flu shot clinic, which adds time to the process.

"Vaccination is happening at an unprecedented pace. It was exactly one year ago today when our staff received the first notification of a cluster of 'unexplained pneumonia' at at province in China," Ehresmann said. "The fact we even have a vaccine within the first year of that notification is remarkable."

Ehresmann noted that a vaccine advisory group is meeting again today and on Jan. 11 to provide state leaders with recommendations for phase 1B of vaccinations, which is expected to include those age 75 or older and front line essential workers. Phase 1B vaccinations are currently expected to be available starting Jan. 18, and is expected to include more people than Phase 1A.

Ehresmann also notes vaccine administration is not a perfect process, as the vaccine has an expiration date on it. She said in some rare instances, health care facilities that complete their current scheduled vaccine administrations may also vaccinate some people outside of the the current Phase 1A group to ensure that no vaccine is wasted.

However, Ehresmann said most Minnesotans in the general public outside the initial priority groups should anticipate that it could take several months before they're able to receive a vaccine.

MDH says it will allow the general public to provide feedback regarding a portion of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process to the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group - which MDH says informs who among society should receive the vaccine first. 

You can weigh in, here.

10 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is scheduled to provide its final coronavirus media briefing of 2020 on Wednesday morning.

Health commissioner Jan Malcolm is scheduled to be joined by MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann and MDH State Epidemiologist and Medical Director Ruth Lynfield.

KARE 11 will carry the briefing live on television at 11 a.m., as well as kare11.com and the KARE 11 YouTube page.

Tuesday, Dec. 29

6 p.m.

First responders are now starting to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner was the first in his department to get the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday. He says the vaccine isn't mandatory for firefighters, but that a majority of the department plans to get it.

"We will continue to be vigilant even after we've gotten the vaccine," said Chief Tyner. "I believe it's going to be the quickest way for us to overcome this pandemic."

He said firefighters within his department who want the vaccine should all get their first dose by New Year's Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firefighters fall into the 1B phase of vaccination.

However, MDH says it is still vaccinating group 1A, while officials for the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County say this newest group includes people who have emergency medical service or paramedic certifications. The county also started giving shots to its health care workers who will be in charge of eventually vaccinating the community.

RELATED: MN first responders start to receive COVID-19 vaccine

1 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is now releasing daily data on the number of people who have received COVID-19 vaccinations in the state.

According to data released Tuesday, 38,014 Minnesotans have been vaccinated thus far. Of that number, 37,397 received the Pfizer vaccine, while 576 received the Moderna version of the vaccine.

MDH also releases weekly data on the number of vaccines distributed to hospitals and other medical providers. The most recent data released on Dec. 23 showed 174,750 doses have been delivered to registered providers statewide.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 988 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. It marks the first time daily case figures have dropped below 1,000 since early October, but also comes on a sharply lower testing volume following the Christmas holiday weekend.

An additional 36 deaths were also reported Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 5,196 since the start of the pandemic.

The positive cases were reported on a testing volume of 7,742 total tests, far lower than the average of 30,000-50,000 tests per day earlier in the month.