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The daily coronavirus update: No vaccine reserves exist for second doses, expanded vaccinations

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called this “the most egregious thing” the federal government has yet done in what he called a botched pandemic response.

COVID-19
COVID-19
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 January 15, 2021:

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443,562 cases; 5,850 deaths

Thirty-three more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 5,850.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, one was over 100 years old, seven were in their 90s, 13 were in their 80s, eight were in their 70s, three were in their 60s and one was in their 40s. Eighteen of the 33 people whose deaths announced Friday were residents of long-term care facilities.

MDH also said Friday there have been 443,562 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 1,627 from the total announced on Thursday and is based on 46,861 new tests. The most recent seven-day positivity average, which lags by a week, is 7.2 percent. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

As of Tuesday, the most recent day of data, 162,040 people, or 2.9 percent of the state’s population, were recorded as having had at least one dose of vaccine.

Hospitalizations remain steady. The most recent data available show 125 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 487 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

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More information on cases can be found here.

Walz addresses Washington Post report on lack of vaccine reserves

U.S. states, including Minnesota, were expecting to see their COVID-19 vaccine supplies increase drastically after an announcement Tuesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the federal government would stop reserving second doses for those who already had their first shot and instead release all available doses.

That’s apparently not going to happen, the Washington Post reported Friday, because there is no reserve supply. Starting in late December, doses were being shipped from assembly lines instead of being held in reserve.

From the Post:

Now, health officials across the country who had anticipated their extremely limited vaccine supply as much as doubling beginning next week are confronting the reality that their allocations will remain largely flat, dashing hopes of dramatically expanding access for millions of elderly people and those with high-risk medical conditions. Health officials in some cities and states were informed in recent days about the reality of the situation, while others are still in the dark.

At a press conference Friday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called this “the most egregious thing” the federal government has yet done in what he called a botched pandemic response, including leaving states to fend for themselves for personal protective equipment and testing.

“Where did [the vaccines] go? Who’s going to be prosecuted for this? What are the states to do when they’ve been lied to and made all their plans around this?” Walz said.

He said Minnesota would continue to vaccinate with the supply it’s receiving, but expressed fear that second doses, which are supposed to be administered three to four weeks after the first, may not be available when they are needed.

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“I am not sleeping because of it. I am deeply concerned,” he said.

Minnesota is still administering vaccine to group 1A, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents. Walz said he spoke with pharmacies administering vaccines to long-term care facilities and learned that residents of skilled nursing facilities are expected to have their first doses finished by Monday, while long-term care facilities are scheduled to be finished on Jan. 30.

Minnesota Health officials said Thursday they plan to announce plans about who’s next in line for the vaccine next week.

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MDH’s coronavirus website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

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