January’s COVID-19 data continues to offer Minnesota hope heading into the last workweek of the month.
At the same time, concerns over the pace of vaccinations and getting kids back into schools continue to boil. Gov. Tim Walz at 2 p.m. is expected to lay out plan to vaccinate 15,000 Twin Cities area teachers, school staff and child care providers this week at St. Paul RiverCentre.
The state Health Department on Monday reported 794 confirmed or probable cases of the disease — along with 3 more deaths; 543 people were in the hospital with COVID-19, with 104 needing intensive care as of Thursday.
There are 10,402 active, known cases of the disease, the lowest level since mid-October and down dramatically from late November, when active cases hovered around 50,000. Overall, conditions have improved significantly from late November, early December.
Monday’s data put Minnesota at 455,783 cases in the pandemic. Of those, about 96 percent of people have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
The newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 6,098. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.
Cases spread across age groups, regions
People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 86,000 since the pandemic began, including more than 45,000 among people ages 20 to 24.
The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 35,000 total cases among those ages 15 to 19 since the pandemic began.
Although less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry youth and young adults will spread it to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.
It’s of particular concern because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.
Caseloads continue to trend down across all regions of the state following a late December, early January blip.
Hot spots continue to pop up in rural counties relative to their population.
Caseloads still heaviest among people of color
In Minnesota and across the country, COVID-19 has hit communities of color disproportionately hard in both cases and deaths. That’s been especially true for Minnesotans of Hispanic descent for much of the pandemic.
Even as new case counts ease from their late November, early December peaks, the data shows people of color continue to be hit hardest.
Distrust of the government, together with deeply rooted health and economic disparities, have hampered efforts to boost testing among communities of color, officials say, especially among unauthorized immigrants who fear their personal information may be used to deport them.
Similar trends have been seen among Minnesota’s Indigenous residents. Counts among Indigenous people jumped in October relative to population.
Struggling to pick up the vaccination pace
Figuring out a way to ramp up vaccinations is a priority for state health officials. More than a quarter-million residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but that’s less than 5 percent of the population. The state’s used about half its allocated shots so far.
The Health Department last week launched a pilot program opening COVID-19 vaccinations to all people 65 and older, as well as educators and child care workers. Demand for the shots, though, was far higher than the 12,000 doses initially allocated.
Hoping to ease the frustration from last week’s frenzied signups, the state on Monday said that Minnesotans age 65 and older will now have a 24-hour window of time beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday to register in advance for a chance to get an appointment through random selection rather than first come, first served.
The mass vaccination being readied for Roy Wilkins Auditorium inside St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center is meant for school districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic school groups. Eligible workers need to make appointment through their organizations. No walkups will be allowed. More details will be available after 2 p.m.