ST PAUL, Minn. — Tuesday, Jan. 18
- New COVID-19 cases remain under 1,000, testing volume low
- Minnesota COVID-19 death toll in single digits for first time in over a week
- Teachers, child care workers, Minnesotans 65 and older eligible for vaccine under limited new pilot program, but calls to request appointments appeared not to go through as of 12:15 p.m. The web portal to request appointments is working for some, but showed error messages for others.
- Over 200,000 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine
- Gopher men's basketball game canceled due to COVID outbreak inside Nebraska program
- Minnesota providers now allowed flexibility to vaccinate some broader groups if they have available doses
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, Jan. 17
Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday that the state government will partner with local public health and school districts to create several community vaccination sites.
Vaccination sites will serve adults 65 years old and up, and prekindergarten through 12th grade teachers, school staff and child care workers. Walz said in a news release Monday that the pilot program will be the foundation for "mass vaccination clinics" in Minnesota once the vaccine supply from the federal government increases.
The sites will launch this week with a "small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans."
Anyone in one of those eligible groups can schedule an appointment at mn.gov/vaccine beginning at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 19. Appointments will start on Thursday, Jan. 21. Walz warned that the demand will outstrip the supply.
Walz cautioned that Minnesota has a limited number of vaccines, so not everyone eligible for the pilot will be able to get vaccinated when they want.
Data released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows both new COVID-19 cases and deaths from the virus dipping from Sunday's numbers.
MDH says 980 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the last day, down from 1,364 on Sunday. Those news cases are based on results from 21,438 tests (20,373 PCR, 1,065 antigen) processed in private and state labs.
Testing volume was down, as is common on weekends.
Health officials consider a positive PCR test a confirmed COVID case, while a positive antigen test is considered a probable case.
Twelve more COVID deaths were recorded, pushing the state total to 5,939. Minnesota is likely to move past the milestone of 6,000 fatalities this week or next.
Total hospitalizations across the state now stand at 23,428 since the start of the pandemic, with 4,881 patients requiring care in the ICU. Of all those who at one time tested positive for coronavirus, 429,325 no longer require isolation.
The state's vaccination dashboard shows 194,462 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 38,025 completing the two-shot series. MDH says of the doses shipped to Minnesota (407,575 to providers, 109,100 for CDC long-term care vaccination program) 45.1% have been used.
Young adults make up the largest grouping of Minnesota's COVID cases, with those 20 to 24 accounting for 45,129 cases and three deaths, and people 25 to 29 recording 40,256 cases and six deaths. Those between 85 and 89 account for the state's largest group of fatalities with 1,122 in 5,891 diagnosed cases.
Hennepin County has reported the most COVID activity in the state with 92,930 cases and 1,478 deaths, followed by Ramsey County 39,917 cases and 738 deaths, Dakota County with 32,945 cases and 340 deaths, and Anoka County with 30,935 cases and 364 fatalities.
Cook County in the northeastern part of the state reports the lease COVID activity with 114 cases and zero deaths.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.