Minnesota is now reporting 447,610 people have received first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, almost eclipsing the total of 463,132 people who have tested positive for the infectious disease.
The latest figures from the Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday include 633 more infections with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and eight more deaths. The state's death toll in the pandemic is now 6,210.
State health officials offered cautious optimism in Minnesota's response to the pandemic and its rollout of the two-dose vaccines against COVID-19. A total of 116,928 people in Minnesota have now received both doses — mostly health care workers and long-term care residents who were prioritized.
Gov. Tim Walz credited new state performance measurements for hastening vaccine administration across Minnesota, along with the recent expansion of eligibility to senior citizens now that many health care workers have received their shots. The state is tracking major health systems by whether they administer 90% of COVID-19 first doses within three days of receiving them, and 100% within seven days.
"We still need far more vaccine from the federal government, but we are doing everything we can to get all Minnesotans vaccinated quickly and safely once supply arrives," Walz said.
The three-day requirement has proved tricker for providers, especially if they receive vaccine shipments late in the week. Only three health systems are above the 90% threshold while four are below 80%
Walz this week adjusted Minnesota's COVID-19 vaccine strategy by providing more doses to health systems to offer to senior citizens. The state this week will host two community vaccination events in Minneapolis and Duluth, rather than the nine that took place last week.
Senior citizens on a waiting list will be selected for the roughly 6,000 first doses that will be provided at these two sites. Seniors who received first doses at the nine state sites over the past two weeks will still go back to those locations for their second doses.
Vaccination progress occurred amid continued signs of easing in the latest pandemic wave. Minnesota hospitals reported that they had 387 total COVID-19 patients admitted to inpatient beds on Monday, including 92 who needed intensive care. The total is lower than the 399 patients that hospitals had just in intensive care at the peak of the pandemic on Dec. 1.
Walz on Tuesday also celebrated that more than 1 million Minnesotans have added the COVIDaware MN app to their mobile devices, allowing those with COVID-19 to anonymously alert any close contacts who might have been exposed. Uptake increased after Jan. 10, when the app became available on Apple devices.
As of Feb. 1, 4,128 users who tested positive for COVID-19 had redeemed verification codes, which they could enter into the app to alert close contacts of their risks.
State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann offered caution on Monday despite the progress, noting some outbreaks in large groups and bars and restaurants since the relaxation of restrictions last month. Continued circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus also raises the possibility of more infectious genetic variants emerging, she added.
"Although our case numbers are down that doesn't mean that we are feeling comfortable," she said.
Survey data on Carnegie Mellon University's COVIDcast shows that Minnesota has one of the nation's highest rates of people going to bars as of Feb. 1. Only Alabama had a higher rate.
On the other hand, the survey data shows an above-average rate of 94% of Minnesotans who say they wear masks in public most or all of the time. Minnesota also ranks among the top five states in the survey data for vaccine acceptance — with 81% of residents saying they would receive COVID-19 vaccine if offered to them today.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744