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State nearing 2 million residents with completed vaccinations

Minnesota is nearing the milestone of 2 million residents with completed COVID-19 vaccinations.

As of Sunday’s update from the Minnesota Department of Health, the number stood at 1,972,888 completed vaccinations — about 44.7 percent of the state’s 16-and-older population. More than 58 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have at least one vaccine dose.

It was March 30 when the health department reported the state had reached 1 million completed vaccinations.

Looking at seven-day rolling averages, there was a slight uptick in new COVID cases and the test positivity rate as of Sunday’s update. But the longer-term trend in both those metrics is downward — and Gov. Tim Walz in coming days is expected to loosen some curbs on public gatherings, likely increasing capacity limits for bars, restaurants and other venues.

Here are Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 statistics:

  • 7,160 deaths (6 newly reported)
  • 579,235 positive cases; 96 percent off isolation
  • 58.4 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose; about 44.7 percent completely vaccinated

The pace of vaccinations has been slowing in Minnesota. Averaged over the past week, as of Sunday the state was seeing about 45,000 vaccinations a day. That average is down from more than 60,000 in mid-April.

Public health leaders remain concerned about that flattening pace and what seems to be a wavering public will around mask wearing and other precautions. They continue to implore Minnesotans to keep their guard up during proms, graduations and other spring events, noting that more contagious COVID-19 variants are driving new cases across the state.

“These kinds of events are ripe for spread” unless people stay on guard, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday.

The count of known, active cases fell back below 15,000 in Sunday’s numbers, down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive remains just below the 5 percent threshold that experts find concerning.

Hospitalizations had been climbing the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January.

Friday’s numbers showed 619 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 166 needed intensive care. Both figures are down from the prior week. Hospitalizations can often stay higher for several weeks following an increase in active cases.

Six deaths reported Sunday brought Minnesota’s pandemic toll to 7,160. Among those who have died, about 61 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state has recorded 579,235 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,713 posted Sunday. About 96 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to isolate.

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. Case counts had been creeping up the past few weeks across the state, but the trend appears to have peaked.

Vaccination pace plateauing

Minnesota’s vaccination pace remains relatively flat as officials work now to reach out to those who haven’t been vaccinated.

More than 2.5 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 2 million have completed their vaccinations, as of Saturday’s update.

That works out to about 44.7 percent of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 58.4 percent with at least one shot, including 87 percent of those 65 and older.

The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which federal authorities paused earlier this month as they investigated the possibility of rare side effects associated with the shot.

The pace may pick up, after federal health officials lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But the recent production breakdown that resulted in millions of J&J doses ruined is having an impact.

Officials also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.

The Health Department estimates about about 3.4 percent of Minnesotans who’ve received their first dose of a two-dose regimen are late for their second shot. Nationwide, about 8 percent of Americans have skipped out on their second dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week state health officials said that out of more than 1.2 million Minnesotans completely vaccinated with two weeks logged beyond the last dose, they’ve confirmed just a sliver, 1,163 cases, where a completely vaccinated person became infected with COVID-19.

Youth counts concerning

While the overall trends are solid, officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people. They’re urging more testing of middle and high school students and weekly testing for athletes, coaches, referees and other youth sports participants.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 106,000 since the pandemic began.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 47,000 15-to-19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry they will spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations. Those with the COVID-19 virus can spread it when they don’t have symptoms.

People attending proms, graduations and other youth oriented events are a special concern now for health officials.

The work by schools and districts to build safeguards into those events “can be completely undermined if students and parents don’t do their part, as well,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Thursday.

South-central Minnesota update

• Freeborn County: eight new lab-confirmed cases, three probable cases; 3,381 total cases; 12,577 people with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 10,440 with completed series

• Faribault County: one new lab-confirmed case; 1,488 total cases; 5,585 people with at least one vaccine dose, 4,827 with completed series

• Mower County: four new lab-confirmed cases; 4,586 total cases; 17,617 people with at least one vaccine dose, 15,056 with completed series

• Steele County: two new lab-confirmed cases, one probable case; 3,778 total cases; 15,399 people with at least one vaccine dose, 11,804 with completed series

• Waseca County: one new lab-confirmed case; 2,347 total cases; 7,411 people with at least one vaccine dose, 5,834 with completed series