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The daily coronavirus update: 35 more deaths, highest one-day total in Minnesota since May

“We are deeply saddened and alarmed by these numbers, but frankly not surprised to see this happening,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Sunday through Friday. The information is published following a press phone call with members of the Walz administration or after the release of daily COVID-19 figures by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Here are the latest updates from October 21, 2020:

126,591 confirmed cases; 2,281 deaths 

Thirty-five more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday, for a total of 2,281. That single-day death toll is the highest since May 28, when Minnesota was experiencing one of the worst stretches of deaths in the pandemic. The state hasn’t reported 30 or more deaths in one day since May 30. 

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News/Pool
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Of the deaths announced Wednesday, one person was older than 100, 12 were in their 90s, 10 were in their 80s, seven were in their 70s, and five were in their 60s. The 35 deaths were spread among 15 counties, and 18 people who died were from Greater Minnesota. Of the deaths announced Wednesday, 26 were among residents of long-term care. So far in the pandemic, 1,608 of the 2,281 coronavirus deaths have been among people in long-term care.

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“We are deeply saddened and alarmed by these numbers, but frankly not surprised to see this happening,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We’ve known that a surge in death was to be expected several weeks after we see a surge in cases.”

MDH also said Wednesday there have been 126,591 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of positives is up 1,060 from Tuesday’s count and is based on 15,963 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

The current caseload and death toll combines Minnesotans with positive PCR tests and positive antigen tests approved under a Food and Drug emergency authorization use. MDH added antigen tests to case counts on Oct. 14.

Malcolm told reporters Wednesday that 558 people were hospitalized Tuesday with COVID-19, an increase of 25 from the day prior. That includes 162 people in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

State is planning for vaccine distribution

As several vaccine developers conduct late-stage trials on COVID-19 vaccines, state health officials say they submitted a preliminary plan to the federal government last week on how to distribute any vaccines that meet health and safety standards.

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Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said Minnesota gave the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a 40-page plan crafted with input from local health departments and health care providers. (The state has posted a short overview of this draft plan online.)

Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Director Kris Ehresmann
Ehresmann said their expectation is the vaccine will be provided free and is based on past immunization efforts for illnesses like H1N1 and measles. She said the initial supply of the vaccine will be limited and people most at risk of COVID-19, such as health care workers, will be prioritized, though the state is still waiting for guidance on the issue from federal officials.

Christine Lees, the disease prevention and emergency preparedness supervisor at Dakota County Public Health, said people in long-term care facilities could be in the “phase one” vaccination roll out.

Amid concerns vaccination development has been rushed or politicized by the Trump administration, Ehresmann said any vaccine must be vetted and reviewed by independent third-party experts. Minnesota will take its lead from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group that includes federal officials but also a broad range of medical professionals from around the country, Ehresmann said. 

Asked if Minnesota could prevent a vaccine it deems unsafe from being distributed, Ehresmann said there have been positive developments by the federal government lately requiring stronger evaluation of a potential vaccine. But, she said: “If we sense there is a concern we will definitely let people know and have conversations about how to proceed given that concern.”

MDH reports jump in flu vaccinations

Ehresmann told reporters state data show a 42 percent increase in the number of people who have been vaccinated for the flu compared to this point in the influenza season last year. Ehresmann said people should get the flu vaccine to keep themselves safe from the disease and to keep the overall flu season mild, which would reduce hospitalizations and take pressure off a health care system dealing with COVID-19.

State to open free COVID-19 test site in Mankato

MDH said Wednesday it plans to open a free COVID-19 saliva testing site in Mankato on Friday. So far the state has opened four other sites — in Duluth, Winona, Moorhead and Brooklyn Park — and says it may open as many as five more in the near future. 

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The results will be processed at the state’s new saliva testing lab in Oakdale. MDH said the Mankato site will be at 1940 Adams Street — formerly a Gander Mountain — and will be open Friday through Tuesday. 

Minnesotans can make an appointment online here. Testing is also open to people who are asymptomatic.

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Around the web

MDH’s coronavirus website:

MDH’s phone line for COVID-19 questions, Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m: 651-297-1304