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Live updates: Walz's omicron hospital plan, state expands vaccine incentives

Here is the latest data on Minnesota's battle against COVID-19, the delta and omicron variants and the efforts to increase vaccinations and testing across the state.

ST PAUL, Minn. —

Wednesday, Jan. 12

1:30 p.m.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are temporarily requiring either a proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test for customers at food establishments. 

This new policy begins next Wednesday, Jan. 19. 

If you show a negative test, it must be within a 72-hour window.  

The test must be a verifiable lab test; no take home tests.

The temporary policy does not apply to grab-and-go, grocery stores, schools, and hospital dining areas.

11:00 a.m.

On Wednesday, Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) officials announced a plan to help Minnesota hospitals struggling under the weight of the COVID omicron surge.

Gov. Walz says he is requesting $40 million to support hospital staffing. MDH is also waiving restrictions to allow hospitals and care facilities to expand capacity.

Walz and MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm, HealthPartners President and CEO Andrea Walsh, and CentraCare President and CEO Dr. Kenneth Holmen spoke at the news conference.

Malcolm says the state is currently negotiating a contract with a national nursing staffing agency to bring up to 300 more nurses to Minnesota. Regional health cooperatives in Minnesota will help decide where they are deployed.

Meanwhile, MDH officials reported 49 new COVID deaths Wednesday, which include one person in their 20s, another in their 30s and four people in their 40s.

Minnesota's cumulative death total is at 10,887 since the pandemic began. Health officials say 5,211 of those deaths have taken place in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

On Wednesday, 10,719 new COVID-19 cases in the state were confirmed, however those numbers are likely lower than what's actually occurring in Minnesota during the omicron surge, as results from at-home COVID tests are usually not reported to state health officials.

Credit: KARE 11

MDH says 1,115,198 COVID cases in total have been recorded since the start of the pandemic. 

Health experts also maintain that due to the contagiousness of omicron, counting new cases should not be the primary measurement of the pandemic, saying hospitalizations and deaths better illustrate the severity of the latest surge.

According to MDH's latest data available, 1,508 people are being treated for COVID in hospitals around the state with 1,251 in non-ICU beds and 257 in the ICU. 

Credit: KARE 11

Hospital bed space continues to be sparse across the state. There is just one staffed pediatric ICU and four staffed pediatric non-ICU beds available in the central portion of the state.

In the metro, there are nine staffed pediatric ICU beds available and four staffed adult ICU beds available.

MDH reported 8,926,273 total doses of vaccine have been administered in the state, with 3,788,080 people age 5 and older having received at least one shot (72.7%). Of that number 3,553,874 people have completed their COVID series and are considered completely vaccinated (68.2%).

Credit: KARE 11
Credit: KARE 11

Among children 5-11 years old, 171,204 kids have at least one shot (34%) and 134,848 have completed their vaccine series (26%).

Credit: KARE 11

The state vaccine dashboard says of the total doses that have been administered in Minnesota, 59.7% are Pfizer, 36.6% are Moderna and 3.7% are Johnson & Johnson.

Tuesday, Jan. 11

1:30 p.m.

On Tuesday Governor Tim Walz announced that the state is expanding its "Kids Deserve a Shot" program to include children between the ages of 5 and 11. Families that get a child in that age group vaccinated (both first and second dose) between January 1 and February 28 can claim a $200 VISA gift card. Eligible children who complete their COVID series in that time frame will also be entered in a drawing for one of five $100,000 college scholarships.

In a press release, the Walz administration said while Minnesota is one of the leaders in getting 5 to 11-year-olds vaccinated, Tuesday's data release by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said just 33% in that age group have received at least one dose.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday announced hundreds of new COVID-19 cases in the state. However, the latest data published likely does not paint the full picture of the current coronavirus surge, which has been fueled largely due to the omicron variant, as many at-home COVID tests were not reported to state health officials. 

Health experts also say that due to the contagiousness of omicron, new cases should not be the primary focus or measurement of the current wave, saying that hospitalizations and deaths better illustrate the severity of the surge.

Minnesota reported 29,487 new COVID cases and 38 new COVID-related deaths on Tuesday.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, Minnesota has reported a total of 1,104,494 COVID cases and 10,838 COVID deaths.

Of those 10,838 COVID-related deaths, 5,203 of them happened in long-term care or assistant living facilities.

Hospitalizations due to COVID remain high in Minnesota and trending towards the previous peak set last year. MDH officials say 1,528 COVID patients are hospitalized and of those, 263 are in the ICU.

More Minnesotans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but vaccination rates for children ages 5 to 11 are still below the statewide average. 170,082 children (33%) have received at least one dose and of those, 133,488 (25%) have been fully vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, 8,909,051 doses of the COVID vaccines have reportedly administered and 3,784,898 people have received at least one dose and 3,550,974 people have been fully vaccinated.

Of the nearly nine million doses administered, MDH reports that 59.7% were Pfizer, 36.6% were Moderna and 3.7% were the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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