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The daily coronavirus update: Nursing home cases at lowest point since March 2020

Minnesota has also reported fewer than 10 deaths in four consecutive days for the first time since September. 

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 February 16, 2021:

474,621 cases; 6,380 deaths

Two more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 6,380.

Both of the people whose deaths were announced were in their 70s. None of the people whose deaths announced Tuesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

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Minnesota has reported fewer than 10 deaths in four consecutive days for the first time since Sept. 15-18. The state has reported an average of 10.3 deaths over the last seven days, which is lower than any week-long period since mid-October.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 474,621 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 452 from the total announced on Monday and is based on 9,333 new tests. The seven-day positive-case average, which lags by a week, is 3.8 percent. That rate had declined for weeks and then plateaued for several days at 3.9 percent, but dipped slightly again Tuesday. It’s also below a 5-percent threshold state officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread.

The most recent data show 686,210 Minnesotans, or roughly 12.3 percent of the state’s population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. MDH says 240,027 Minnesotans have gotten both shots in the two-dose vaccine series.

Health officials also said they have identified 40 cases in Minnesota of a COVID-19 variant strain originating in the United Kingdom that is believed to be more easily spread, a reason MDH should continue to follow health guidance to prevent disease transmission.

The most recent data available show 57 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 258 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.

More information on cases can be found here.

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Cases in nursing homes plummet

While many signs point to the pandemic becoming less severe in Minnesota in recent weeks, one data point is particularly encouraging, health officials said Tuesday. The state reported just 15 cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes over the most recent week of data, said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm, which is the lowest weekly total recorded since March, when the pandemic was just taking hold.

Residents of nursing homes were in the top priority group for vaccinations as elderly and ill people are considered high risk for severe cases of COVID-19.

New quarantine guidance for vaccinated Minnesotans

MDH infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the state released new guidance today for when people who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

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People who have gotten both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can skip isolation if all of the following apply:

  • It has been at least 14 days since their last vaccine shot. This lag period is because the body needs time to build immunity through the vaccine.
  • The exposure to someone with COVID-19 was within 90 days of their final vaccine dose. Ehresmann said scientists expect to learn more about how long vaccine protection lasts, but until then, this is their recommendation.
  • The person who has been vaccinated but exposed has no symptoms of COVID-19.

Ehresmann noted health care workers may have to follow different guidelines because of where they work.

Shipment delays from bad weather complicate vaccine distribution

Ehresmann told reporters Tuesday that severe weather across the country, particularly in the South, has delayed some vaccine shipments this week. Health care providers may have to reschedule appointments.

While President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday they plan to increase the number of vaccines distributed to states and directly to pharmacy chains through a federal program, Malcolm said it’s difficult to tell how the announcement and the weather would impact Minnesota’s allocation next week.

Ehresmann said they expect to get more vaccines, but said the feds are also now counting every vial of the Pfizer vaccine as having six doses rather than five, when in reality Minnesota health providers were using that unexpected sixth dose anyways. “In the past they were only counted as having five so some of that increase is on paper,” she said. 

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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