COVID-19 Latest

A dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is prepared before being administered at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. (Evan Frost/MPR News)

Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to offer a mix of hope and uncertainty. New daily case counts fell below 1,000 for the first time since early October, but that came on very low testing, making it difficult to draw any conclusions about the pandemic’s path.

The death toll, meanwhile, continues to climb.

The state on Tuesday reported 988 newly confirmed or probable cases. The count of known, active cases in Minnesota fell below 13,000 for the first time since late October, part of an overall slowdown in caseloads since their late November, early December peak.

Hospitalization trends have also improved significantly the past two weeks. As of Sunday, 878 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 in Minnesota, with 203 needing intensive care.

Overall, thought, the statistics are still distorted by reporting delays from the long holiday weekend, making it hard to say how Minnesota’s COVID-19 outbreak is changing.

State health officials have warned that the improving picture could change dramatically if people don’t stay vigilant. They continue to implore people to wear masks in indoor gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

The cases reported Tuesday put Minnesota at 411,110 in the pandemic. Of those, about 96 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

The 36 newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 5,196. Among those who’ve died, about 64 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

Caseloads spread across age groups

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 78,000 since the pandemic began, including nearly 42,000 among people ages 20 to 24.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with nearly 32,000 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 grandparents and other vulnerable populations.

It’s especially concerning because people can have the coronavirus and spread COVID-19 when they don’t have symptoms.

New cases ebb across Minnesota

Central and western Minnesota drove much of the increase in new cases over the past two months, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed some of the slowest case growth in the state.

Cases continue to fall statewide, with most regions dipping down to levels before the state’s COVID-19 surge that hit in November and early December.

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 peak a few weeks ago, 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.

State wants masks on youth hockey, hoops players

Minnesota student athletes must wear masks at all practices and games — even during high-exertion sports such as hockey and basketball, state officials said Monday.

There are exceptions for swimmers while they're in the water, as well as wrestlers, and certain gymnastics and cheerleading routines.

The regulations came as part of the new COVID-19 guidance for youth winter sports. In November, Gov. Tim Walz ordered a “pause” on prep sports as part of a larger effort to minimize public gatherings to stop the disease’s spread.

Under the new guidance, teams can conditionally begin games and scrimmages with other teams starting Jan. 14. Practices, which can start next Monday, may not include more than 25 people.

— Matt Sepic | MPR News

Federal help on the way for jobless Minnesotans

A new federal pandemic relief package signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday will help thousands of unemployed Minnesotans.

Steve Grove, Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development, said more than 300,000 Minnesotans are receiving unemployment. He said more than 100,000 Minnesotans “risked falling out of the system” without the legislation.

The state has distributed more than $9 billion in federal unemployment benefits this year amid the pandemic, Grove said. That’s a record

Grove said a state emergency program will cover a one-week gap in extra pandemic benefits for many unemployed Minnesotans before the the new federal aid begins flowing.

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Southern Minn newspaper group staff contributed to this article.

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