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Live updates: Some COVID-19 vaccination clinics postponed by storm-related shipping delays

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says it will stay in close touch with those who had appointments canceled to reschedule their vaccinations.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Thursday, Feb. 18

  • MDH postpones appointments at some community clinics Thursday, Friday due to vaccine delays
  • State launches COVID-19 Vaccine Connector to help Minnesotans find shots
  • Minneapolis offers online vaccine information resources
  • Walz says middle, high school students can return to the classroom starting Feb. 22
  • Delays expected in Minnesota vaccine delivery, appointments due to inclement weather in southern US
  • Minneapolis loosens COVID restrictions on bars

2:20 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reporting that COVID-19 vaccination appointments were postponed in two community locations for Thursday Feb. 18, and in six locations for Friday, Feb. 19 after severe winter weather in the U.S. delayed vaccine shipments.

MDH warned that additional shipping delays caused by the storm system could cause "significant operational challenges" for both state sites and other providers in coming days. 

Among them are the state-run community vaccination locations in St. Cloud, Rochester (Willow Creek), Fergus Falls, North Mankato, Thief River Falls and Minneapolis. MDH says patients at these locations with appointments on February 18 and 19 are being notified that their appointments are postponed, and will be contacted 24-48 hours from their postponement notice about rescheduling vaccinations as soon as possible.

The department is in close contact with the CDC to monitor the vaccine delays, and is updating providers with new information that includes shipping details and ways to track doses leaving warehouses.

2 p.m.

The city of Minneapolis is aligning with the state of Minnesota and loosening some restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement Thursday saying that bars can resume counter service, as long as establishments continue to follow state guidelines around restaurant precautions and capacity.

Effective Thursday, Frey's emergency regulation that was issued to limit bars and restaurants is rescinded. That is the order that was prohibiting bars from serving drinks at the bar area, and required customers to be served while seated at tables.

In his announcement, Frey cited the low level of cases in Minnesota, the stabilized hospitalizations rates and the "ramping up" of vaccination efforts.

11 a.m.

The state of Minnesota is nearing a benchmark in its efforts to vaccinate against COVID-19, but state officials emphasize there is a long road ahead before every resident is considered safe. 

Data from the state's vaccination dashboard show that 710,305 people have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 264,122 of them having completed the two-shot series. That means as of Thursday, 974,427 doses have been administered, making it very likely that the 1 million mark will be eclipsed in Friday's report. 

The dashboard says 12.8% of Minnesota's reported 5.6 million residents have now received at least a first dose, but Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm reminds state residents this will be a long process. Malcolm says at this point Minnesota is receiving 88,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government each week, less than 1% of what we actually need to do the job. She also cautioned that vaccination numbers will likely be down in the coming days, due to distribution of supplies being impacted by the huge winter storm in the southern U.S. 

On Thursday afternoon MDH reported that appointments were postponed in two community locations for Feb. 18, and in six locations for Feb. 19. The department warned that additional shipping delays caused by the winter storm system could cause "significant operational challenges" for both state sites and other providers. 

MDH promised to stay in touch with those who have appointments canceled to work on rescheduling. 

Credit: KARE

As far as new cases go, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says 928 were recorded in the last day, an uptick that is against recent overall trends. Those new cases are based on results from 33,915 tests (31,198 PCR, 2,717 antigen) processed in private and state labs. That brings total COVID cases in the state to 476,292 since the start of the pandemic, 22,207 of which were tied to antigen tests. 

Credit: KARE

MDH says 14 more people have died of coronavirus, pushing fatalities over the 6,400 mark (6,404). Of those deaths 4,027, or 63%, are linked to long-term care or assisted living settings. 

The number of people currently hospitalized in Minnesota as of Thursday is 287, the first time in months that count has dropped below 300. Of those patients 54 are being cared for in the ICU. Bed availability in hospitals across the Twin Cities is low, with just 3% (111) of non-ICU beds being open for patients. 

Total hospitalizations have risen to 25,341, with 5,230 of those patients requiring treatment in the ICU. 

Credit: KARE

Of the Minnesotans who have tested positive for the virus, 463,041 have recovered to the point they no longer need to isolate. 

Young adults between ages 20 and 29 account for 90,238 of Minnesota's COVID cases, just short of 20 percent of the state's total. Nine people from that age demographic have died from the virus. Those 85 to 89 have recorded the largest number of deaths, with 1,215 in just 6,184 cases. 

Cook County in northeastern Minnesota reports the least COVID activity with just 118 cases since the pandemic began, and no one there has died of the virus. Hennepin County has recorded the most COVID activity with 98,828 cases and 1,576 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 42,376 cases and 790 deaths, Dakota County with 35,365 cases and 380 deaths, and Anoka County with 32,718 cases and 380 fatalities.  

10 a.m. 

The state is taking the wraps off a new tool that will help all Minnesotans find out when, where, and how to get their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Governor Tim Walz calls the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector the next step in the state's strategy "to meet Minnesotans where they are and connect them to vaccine opportunities, no matter where they live or their personal circumstances."

In an online briefing with reporters, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm urged all Minnesotans who have not yet received their vaccine to sign up, either via the state's COVID-19 response web page, or by calling 833-431-2053 for those without computer access or those who need assistance. She called the new tool "a really important step in our overall strategy."

"This is going to be a really great tool to help all Minnesotans no matter who we are, what eligibility category we are in, when we anticipate getting vaccinated, this tool is available to all of us, right now, to help us better identify when, where and how we will be able to get our COVID-19  vaccine," Malcolm explained. 

There is no cost, and no restricted time period for registering.

Malcolm said Minnesota is currently receiving about 88,000 doses of vaccine per week from the federal government as our share of the national disbursement, saying that number is about 1% of what the state actually needs each week to vaccinate all its residents. 

The commissioner also noted Thursday's revelation that America's life expectancy rate has dropped by a full year, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said certain populations (people of color, Native Americans) are impacted by a rate two to three times higher.  

Malcom believes that the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector can help those populations get into the system easily, so they are not left unvaccinated and vulnerable. 

Those signing up will be asked to provide contact information, demographic data, medical history, and employment to determine their eligibility for vaccinations. The online form includes questions about gender identity, sexual orientation, race, cultural identification, and disabilities to help health officials track and measure the equity and fairness of the vaccine distribution process. These questions have the option of selecting “prefer not to answer” or “none of the above,” and opting to not answer will not prevent a person from signing up. 

Anyone who registers will be alerted by the Vaccine Connector when they become eligible to be vaccinated under state guidelines. It will then help with connecting them to resources to schedule an appointment, or notify that person if there are other vaccination opportunities in their area. 

Actual appointments will be made through a registered provider. 

State IT Commissioner Tarek Tomes said as of 10 a.m. 50,000 people had already signed up for the vaccine connector, but he insists it's about more than the volume of users. "This tool has larger longer-term implications for the state's COVID-19 response effort, as it connects Minnesotans with the many vaccine provider opportunities throughout the state," he explained. 

In the current phase of its vaccination strategy Minnesota is providing doses for health care workers, long-term care residents, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 educators, child care workers and people age 65 and over. State leaders are urging all Minnesotans who have not been vaccinated to sign up for the Vaccine Connector. Residents will also continue to hear about vaccination opportunities in other ways:

  • Health care personnel will hear from their employer about when and where they can get vaccinated
  • Long-term care residents will hear from their facility about when and where they can get vaccinated
  • Adults 65+ who already registered through either the COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot Program or the COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program do not need to re-submit information. When adults 65+ sign up for the Vaccine Connector, they will immediately be entered into the random selection process for the state’s Community Vaccination Program sites operating in Minneapolis, Duluth, and Rochester. If they are selected to receive their vaccine at one of these sites, they will be notified by text, email, or landline by the company that runs those sites, Vault Health. 
  • The state is continuing to partner with hundreds of local medical providers and pharmacies to provide shots to Minnesotans age 65 and older. Adults 65+ can use the Vaccine Locator map to find nearby vaccine distribution sites and make an appointment to receive a vaccine through the providers listed there. They can also contact their regular provider directly.
  • Educators and child care providers who already completed the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine – Education and Child Care survey do not need to complete the Vaccine Connector form, or re-submit their information. Educators, school staff, and child care workers will continue to hear from their local public health agency, employer, state-sponsored community vaccination site, or state vaccination partner about when and where they can get vaccinated.

RELATED: Gov. Walz unveils timeline for middle school, high school students to return to classroom

9:30 a.m.

After the state of Minnesota announced a new online COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, the city of Minneapolis also rolled out a new tool to help inform people about vaccines.

The web tool will help Minneapolis residents find information on the status of the vaccine rollout and who is eligible, the safety of getting a vaccine, and what to expect when getting vaccinated. 

The tool will be offered in multiple languages, and include a form for community organizations to request a Minneapolis Health Department speaker to address vaccine questions and concerns.

Wednesday, Feb. 17

Minnesota's new COVID case numbers bumped up a bit Wednesday, an anticipated development as weekday testing volume increased.

Data released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflects 783 new cases of the virus, an increase from Tuesday's 456. Wednesday's case numbers were based on results from 22,160 tests (18,630 PCR, 3,530 antigen) processed in private and state labs. That is more than twice the testing volume reported Tuesday. 

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

Minnesota has now tallied 475,379 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, 22,055 of which are tied to antigen tests. 

Reported COVID deaths are in double digits for the first time in four days. MDH says 10 people died from the virus in the last day, pushing fatalities to 6,390. Of that total 4,019, or 63% of them, are associated with long-term care or assisted living settings.

Credit: KARE

Minnesota is nearing 700,000 people who have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine. The state vaccine dashboard says as of Monday, 695,629 people have at least received the first shot, with 246,431 of them having completed the two-shot series. 

At this point, about 12.3% of Minnesota's 5.6 million residents have been vaccinated at least once.

Credit: KARE

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to drop, with 314 people receiving in-patient care as of Tuesday. Of those patients 54 are in the ICU. The availability of non-ICU beds in Twin Cities hospitals remains low, with just 3.8% (141 beds) open at this time. 

Total hospitalizations since the pandemic began are now up to 25,287, with 5,212 people requiring ICU care.

Credit: KARE

Young adults continue to be a concern to health officials, with people 20 to 24 accounting for the most coronavirus cases of any group (47,511). Three people included in those cases died. The age group registering the most fatalities is those between 85 and 90-years-old, with 1,211 deaths in 6,182 cases. 

Hennepin County has recorded the highest amount of COVID activity with 98,644 cases and 1,569 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 42,308 cases and 790 deaths, Dakota County with 35,280 cases and 380 deaths, and Anoka County with 32,669 cases and 380 fatalities.