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Live updates: Minnesota asks families with students to get tested every two weeks

Here are the latest case numbers and trends in the battle against COVID-19 in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the effort to vaccinate against the virus.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Wednesday, Feb. 24    

  • Minnesota asks families with in-person students to get tested for COVID every two weeks
  • Delayed vaccines arriving in Minnesota after inclement weather, other issues
  • Smell training can get sense of smell back following COVID
  • Hy-Vee added to Minnesota pharmacy vaccine network
  •  U.S. passes grim milestone, 500,000 COVID-19 death
  • New cases remain under 1,000, deaths in single digits

2 p.m.

State officials are giving a briefing on Minnesota's COVID-19 situation and vaccination effort. You can listen to it live below. 

During the briefing, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm highlighted that more than one million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Minnesota. 

MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said more good news is expected, as Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine gets closer to FDA approval. She said the vaccine's other benefits include less stringent handling measures.

RELATED: FDA staff releases review of Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID vaccine

Despite the good news, health officials urged Minnesotans to help avoid another wave of cases and deaths through testing and mitigation measures, like masking and social distancing. 

"As long as there are COVID-19 cases in the state, we must remain vigilant and keep testing," said MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff. 

Huff said the state is asking Minnesotan families with students returning to the classroom to get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks. The request also applies to those with both doses of the vaccine. Huff clarified that the biweekly testing is not a requirement.

"Testing can catch a single case early and prevent it from becoming many cases," Huff said. He added that state health officials are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in areas of the state that foreshadowed the pandemic's worst spike in 2020. 

Huff said families with students can order a free home saliva testing kit from the state, or go to a nearby testing site.  

Asked about negative reactions to new vaccines, Ehresmann said vaccines are subjected to post-licensure safety monitoring even after FDA approval. As part of that, she said formal evaluations are happening in Minnesota, but for now there is no evidence that vaccines led to any deaths.

11 a.m.

Top officials with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are preparing for an influx of COVID-19 vaccines in the latter part of this week, to push up vaccination numbers that have recently become a bit stagnant. 

Data from the state vaccine dashboard shows that as of Monday 770,021 residents have received at least one dose, 13.8% of Minnesota's population. Of those people 370,981 have completed the two-shot series. Just under 8,000 doses were administered in the most recent day of record-keeping, well under a recent rate cited by Gov. Walz when he said the state was averaging 29,000 vaccinations per day. 

Credit: KARE

The big reason for this is a delay in vaccine shipments due to unusual winter storms down south. At this point those shipments are caught up and two weeks worth of vaccine is now in, or will soon arrive in Minnesota. On a larger scale, executives with the major vaccine manufacturers are promising that a big jump in vaccine supply is coming. By the end of March Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up from roughly 75 million shipped so far. 

State health officials are expected to provide an update on Minnesota's vaccination effort during a call with media Wednesday at 2 p.m. We will carry that call live at kare11.com, and share it on our social platforms. 

Providers are administering 88% of the vaccine they have received within a three day period, just under the state goal of 90%. 

MDH says 761 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last day, bringing the state total to 480,845 since the pandemic began. The new cases are based on results from 19,822 tests (16,604 PCR, 3,218 antigen) processed in private and state labs. Health officials consider a positive PCR test to be a confirmed COVID case, while a positive antigen test is considered a probable case.

Credit: KARE

Nine more Minnesotans have died from coronavirus, bringing total fatalities to 6,443. Of that number 4,040, or 63%, are linked to assisted living or long-term care settings. 

Young adults 20 to 24 continue to make up the largest group of the state's cases with 47,919 cases and three deaths, while those between 85 and 89 comprise the largest grouping of deaths with 1,221 fatalities in 6,227 diagnosed cases. 

The most COVID cases have been recorded by Hennepin County health officials, 99,738, with 1,576 deaths. Ramsey County reports 42,744 cases and 796 deaths, followed by Dakota County with 35,818 cases and 383 deaths, and Anoka County with 33,010 and 383 deaths. 

Cook County in northeast Minnesota has seen the least COVID activity with just 119 cases and zero fatalities. 

Tuesday, Feb. 23

2 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz held a 2 p.m. press conference to speak on Minnesota's efforts to equitably distribute vaccines, especially to communities hit hardest by the coronavirus's effects. 

Walz said the state has partnered with more than 30 "COVID-19 Community Coordinators" -- organizations that will connect their communities to information about the virus and about testing and vaccination opportunities.

In a press release, the governor's office said CCCs will also provide information specific to their communities, such as through different languages.

The groups served include communities of color, American Indian communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and Minnesotans with disabilities. You can find a full list -- and information about finding a coordinator for your needs -- on the state website.

RELATED: Drug execs say big jump in vaccine supply is coming soon

11 a.m.

Numbers released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflect 513 new cases of COVID-19, and one more death from the virus.

The numbers appear to be in line with a continuing trend of numbers released on Tuesday being the lowest of the week. MDH spokesman Doug Schultz says that is due to testing volume that is historically low on the weekends -- those results are reported on Tuesdays. 

Testing volume reported in the past 24 hours was low, with just 9,498 tests (8,653 PCR, 845 antigen) processed in private and state labs. That is just over half the test results reported Monday. Minnesota has now recorded 480,091 COVID cases since the pandemic began. 

Credit: KARE

One reported death brings the state total caused by coronavirus to 6,434.

The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID across the state as of Monday is 269, with 54 of those patients in the ICU. That's up a bit from yesterday's total of 235. Total hospitalizations have climbed to 25,528, with 5,276 people requiring care in the ICU.

MDH says 467,147 people once diagnosed with the virus have passed the point where they are required to isolate. 

The virus has been most deadly for people between the ages of 85 and 89, with 1,220 deaths in just 6,222 cases. That means 20% of people from that demographic who recorded a positive test have died from COVID. 

Young adults make up the largest group of coronavirus cases, with people 20 to 24 accounting for 47,865 cases and three deaths, followed by 25 to 29-year-olds with 42,951 cases and six deaths.

Hennepin County has reported the most COVID activity with 99,559 cases and 1,576 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 42,700 cases and 795 deaths, Dakota County with 37,723 cases and 383 deaths, and Anoka County with 32,968 cases ad 383 deaths. That list follows Minnesota's most populous counties in precise order. 

On the vaccine front, 762,089 Minnesotans have received at least one dose, with 362,156 of those having completed the two-shot COVID-19 series as of Sunday. That brings the percentage of residents who have received at least one vaccination to 13.7 percent. State health officials expect those numbers to ramp up as shipments of vaccine delayed by last week's winter storms pour in, along with this week's expected doses.

Credit: KARE

At this point 88% of providers are meeting a state goal to administer vaccines within three days of receiving them. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Walz will be speaking about a state push to make sure the vaccination process is equitable for Minnesotans of all colors, backgrounds and economic levels. 

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