The effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota and Le Sueur County is continuing to ramp up as the state recently announced 35,000 new doses of vaccine this week for people ages 65 and up. Locally, Le Sueur County has expanded vaccinations for law enforcement and school staff.
At the same time, COVID-19 rates are falling in Le Sueur County and new cases of coronavirus were cut in half from December to January. As of Jan. 29, Le Sueur County had reported 219 cases for the month. It’s the third highest month on record for the county, but well below the 460 cases reported in December and 799 in November.
Cumulative deaths are up to 16 in Le Sueur County following the death of a long-term care resident in their 80s. The age ranges with the highest number of cases include 50-59-year-olds with 386 cases total, 20-29-year-olds with 345 and 30-39-year-olds with 338.
While COVID rates have fallen over the last month, vaccination rates in Le Sueur County are on the rise. Approximately 6% of county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, a total 1,686 people. Of that number, 385 have received their first and second doses. Statewide, 7.6% of the population has received at least one dose.
Minnesota continues to remain in Phase 1a of its vaccination schedule. Le Sueur County has finished with the first and second priority groups and moved onto the third and final priority group which includes remaining health care personnel not included in the first two priority groups.
The county also scheduled vaccinations on Thursday last week to include local law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office after the state expanded its definition of EMS workers to encompass police. In addition to targeting health care workers, Le Sueur County provided vaccines to school medical staff.
The county received 200 doses for these new vaccinations last week, as well as 150 second doses for people vaccinated by the county in December.
As the county has taken on health care personnel, local pharmacies have partnered with long-term care providers to distribute vaccines to staff and residents. In Le Sueur, Corner Drug has partnered with the county and administered vaccines to two long-term care facilities and with leftover vaccines has moved on to group homes.
Residents ages 65 and older had the opportunity to receive the vaccine through Minnesota’s COVID-19 pilot program. Those who pre-registered had a chance to be randomly selected for a vaccination at nine sites across the state, North Mankato being the closest site to Le Sueur County.
On Feb. 1, Gov. Tim Walz announced those pilot sites would no longer administer first doses as the state plans to distribute 35,000 vaccines for senior citizens at more than 100 hospitals, clinics and medical providers. The governor also established two permanent community vaccination sites in Minneapolis and Duluth and plans to open a third site in southern Minnesota next week.
“We have long planned for most Minnesotans to get vaccinated in the places they are used to getting their health care — places like smaller clinics, local hospitals, and community pharmacies,” Gov. Walz said in a statement. “But not everyone has a doctor or pharmacy they’re familiar with. That’s why we’ve built up a reliable network of different ways Minnesotans will be able to access the vaccine. After careful planning, we’re now activating that network to give Minnesotans options close to home.
“We still need more supply, but we have to work quickly with what we do have and be ready when the federal government ramps up to meet the demand. Today we’re expanding locations offering the vaccine and helping connect our seniors to shots where they live, so we can get to work crushing COVID-19 across Minnesota,” Walz added.
People who received a first dose at one of the pilot sites can receive their second dose at the same site. Minnesotans who have not been selected for a vaccine from the pilot registry will remain on this list and continue to have the opportunity to be selected to schedule an appointment at the State of Minnesota’s COVID-19 community vaccination sites.
Vaccines have been in limited supply compared to demand. More than 220,000 people registered for 9,000 slots in the pilot program. But Le Sueur County Public Health Director Cindy Shaughnessy was optimistic about new opportunities for people to receive the vaccine. The Public Health Official praised recentt news that Minnesota’s major healthcare systems would be distributing the vaccine to their patients.
”The vaccine is still really limited, none of us are getting large amounts of vaccine, but that will open up that avenue as well,” said Shaughnessy.