With an additional 1,714 new COVID-19 infections announced Tuesday by state health officials, Minnesota has surpassed more than 400,000 coronavirus cases.
Twenty-four more deaths were also reported, with 16 among residents of long-term care facilities.
Since the pandemic began in the state in March, 4,896 people have died and 401,011 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, although it is likely that many more have caught the virus but were not tested.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state could surpass 5,000 total coronavirus deaths this week.
"This follows that big surge in cases that we saw in November," she said.
New case and death counts are typically lower in the beginning of each week, reflecting reduced reporting to the Minnesota Department of Health over the weekend.
But December so far has been the deadliest of the pandemic, with 1,303 deaths reported, surpassing the 1,136 deaths in November.
The state has seen relatively lower case counts over the past several weeks.
"We've seen a downward trend in cases and hospitalizations and some stability now," Malcolm said.
COVID-19 vaccines are making their way to Minnesota, but with 5.6 million residents, it will take a while before all who want a shot can get one.
Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director, said it could take until the end of January before the 500,000 health care workers and long-term residents in the highest priority groups get the vaccine.
After that, priority will be given to those over age 74 as well as essential workers, including first responders, teachers and workers in public transit, grocery stores, agriculture and other industries as recommended recently by a federal advisory panel.
Minnesota is expected to follow those recommendations, but as in the high priority group, it will need to make decisions about who will get the shots first.
"With the limited doses right now we are going to have to make some very tough decisions," she said.
The state this week is expected to receive 94,900 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and 33,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, adding to the 46,800 doses that came last week.
As of Sunday, about 2,900 health care workers in the state had been vaccinated, with more expected to get shots this week now that more hospitals and clinics have completed the required training on how to store and administer the vaccine properly.
State officials said they expect more vaccine to arrive in the coming weeks, but stress that it is difficult to predict how much will arrive in the pipeline as the supply chain is getting established.
The pressure on the state's hospitals has eased, with 228 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds, down from the 399 when the month began. Another 832 patients were hospitalized in non-ICU beds.
Most people who require hospitalization have underlying health conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease.
About 33,000 test reports were sent to the Health Department on Monday. About 2.9 million Minnesotans have taken at least one COVID-19 diagnostic test.
Of those who are known to have been infected, 376,354 are considered to no longer be infectious and are no longer required to isolate.
Minnesota is using smartphone technology to help people learn if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. The COVIDaware MN app has been downloaded to 340,168 phones. A total of 2,270 people who tested positive entered a verification code, given to them by contact tracers, that anonymously warns people they've had close contact with, according to the state's information technology agency.
Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192