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The daily coronavirus update: second consecutive day with only one reported death

State officials also said Tuesday said they’re partnering with dozens of organizations that serve people of color, American Indians, LGTBQ+ people and those who have disabilities in order to connect them to vaccines. 

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 23, 2021:

480,091 cases; 6,434 deaths

One more Minnesotan has died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 6,434.

The person whose death was announced Tuesday was in their 70s and not a resident of a long-term care facility. Health officials also reported one death on Monday, marking the first time the state has announced fewer than two deaths in consecutive days for the first time since March 26 and March 25. At that point in March, the state had just two confirmed cumulative deaths.

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The state has reported 235 deaths so far in February, which is far lower than the death tolls in January (877), December (1,729), November (1,136) and October (423).

Health officials say 762,089 Minnesotans, roughly 13.7 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The state reports 362,156 residents have received both shots in the two-dose vaccine regimen.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 480,091 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 500 from the total announced on Monday and is based on 9,498 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 3.6 percent. That’s below a 5-percent threshold the state considers a concerning sign of disease spread.

The most recent data available show 54 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 215 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.

Walz says he will announce next vaccine priority groups soon

Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Tuesday said he expects to announce this week or early next week the timing of additional vaccine groups. He said the federal government is giving states three-weeks notice of the number of doses and that advance notice could increase to eight weeks.

He said he thinks the vaccine infrastructure is such that the state could deliver 400,000 to 500,000 doses per week. “That’s how quickly we could go,” Walz said.

“What I’d like to be able to get to you is everybody in Minnesota could see an approximate date when they’re gonna fall into this — my age, my health condition, where I’ll fall in this line.”

Walz said he doesn’t think the state will wait until it vaccinates 100 percent of those 65 and over before opening vaccinations to additional groups.

At what point, 60 and 70 percent? “We can’t hold up giving it to others while we’re waiting for someone to decide whether they’re going to take it,” Walz said.

State asks dozens of organizations to help connect people to vaccines

State officials on Tuesday said they’re partnering with dozens of organizations that serve people of color, American Indian communities, LGTBQ+ people and Minnesotans who have disabilities to connect people in those groups to vaccines.

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Walz and his administration say they want to boost access to vaccines for people who may have a harder time getting the shots, and that things such as language barriers can hinder access. At a news conference Tuesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis, Alfred Babington-Johnson, president of the Stairstep Foundation, said access isn’t the only issue, however.

“There’s mistrust and skepticism,” in vaccines and government Babington-Johnson said.

Babington-Johnson said the state and health care leaders have listened to organizations like his and that work is paying off.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state has had trouble collecting good data on vaccination to see how they’re doing reaching people of color, but the state is asking for that data as part of its online tool to connect people with vaccines released last week. Malcolm said the state is hoping to release some of that data soon.

Walz also said the state could factor in health threats disproportionately impacting people of color in the next phases of vaccine eligibility. Malcolm said younger people in some of the state’s “populations of focus” are dying at a higher rate per capita than older white people. “So it’s very important to factor those issue in,” Malcolm said.

In a statement, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said Walz was complicating an already complicated process and said the state should focus on seniors, who are generally considered most at risk of a severe case of COVID-19. “Complex metrics, differing information streams, and hard to understand rules for who gets vaccinated, paired with invasive questions on a website does is an abject failure to protect the most vulnerable population in our state,” Gazelka said.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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