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The daily coronavirus update: people of color being vaccinated at lower rates than whites in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Friday that 13 more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, for a total of 6,534.

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 March 5, 2021:

488,170 cases; 6,534 deaths

Thirteen more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 6,534.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, four were in their 90s, three were in their 80s, two were in their 70s, two were in their 60s and two were in their 50s. Six of the 13 people whose deaths announced Friday were residents of long-term care facilities.

The state has reported 51 deaths in the first five days of March. The seven-day average of COVID-19 fatalities has crept up from a recent low of 6.5 on Feb. 25 to about 10.3 on Friday, though deaths remain at a low level compared to much of the pandemic.

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MDH also said Friday there have been 488,170 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 796 from the total announced on Thursday and is based on 37,165 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 3.6 percent. That’s up slightly from data reported Thursday, but still below a 5-percent threshold the state says is a concerning sign of wide disease spread. MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Friday the positivity rate has been stable for roughly two weeks, as have COVID-19 cases.

The state’s most recent data shows 975,781 Minnesotans, roughly 17.5 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s up 27,654 from the data reported Thursday. MDH also says 516,422 residents have completed their vaccine series, meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or they have received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

About 58.2 percent of Minnesotans who are age 65 or older have received at least one vaccine dose. Gov. Tim Walz plans to open vaccines to more people when roughly 70 percent of seniors have at least one shot.

Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said Minnesota is expecting to get 127,169 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines next week, and expects to continue distributing an initial shipment of 45,200 Johnson & Johnson shots.

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The most recent data available show 57 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 167 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. That’s down slightly from Thursday, when the state reported 186 people were hospitalized outside of the ICU. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

State data shows people of color getting vaccinated at lower rates than whites in Minnesota

New state data released by MDH on Friday shows a higher percentage of white Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine than residents who are indigenous or people of color.

About 18.7 percent of white residents who are age 15 or older have gotten at least one shot, compared to 14.8 percent of American Indians, 10 percent of Asian and Pacific Islanders, 9.9 percent of Black residents and 5.9 percent of Hispanic Minnesotans. The state says 3 percent of multiracial residents have been vaccinated.

About 45 percent of white Minnesotans age 65 or older have received at least one vaccine dose compared to roughly 38-39 percent of native, API and Black residents. About 31.5 percent of Hispanic seniors have gotten a vaccine dose.

So far, health care workers, teachers, and seniors have been prioritized for vaccination in Minnesota. Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, said white Minnesotans make up a larger share of early priority groups compared to the general population, such as health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. But she said there are racial disparities even within those vaccination subgroups.

State leaders say they want more equitable vaccine distribution and plan to use this data to drive decisions on how to allocate doses around Minnesota to reach that goal.

People of color are at higher risk of severe cases of COVID-19, in part because they face disproportionately higher rates of health problems such as diabetes that lead to worse coronavirus outcomes.

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In a news release, MDH said Friday it plans to give doses to more local pharmacies where people in targeted demographics live. The state also expects to expand the number of vaccination sites in focus communities and deploy mobile vaccination units to try to reach people.

MDH previously announced it was partnering with nonprofits and community groups aimed at helping people of color to better connect people to vaccines. Agency leaders said Friday they plan to rely on those organizations to help the state and federal government find unvaccinated people and schedule their vaccines at new vaccine sites.

For instance, President Joe Biden’s administration is giving doses for the next three weeks to the pharmacy at the Walmart in Brooklyn Center based on the city’s Social Vulnerability Index profile, and the MDH nonprofit partners are working with Walmart to find Minnesotans who are Black, Indigenous or people of color to get shots.

The MDH news release says it has also updated its vaccine allocation guidelines to prioritize people who are 65 and older and who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. When people who are younger are eligible for a vaccine, MDH said to prioritize those who are enrolled in state-run health care programs.

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The new state data is collected from health systems such as Allina Health, CentraCare and Mayo Clinic. It doesn’t include information from everyone who has been vaccinated, however. Sanford Health and the Minneapolis VA system aren’t currently giving race and ethnicity data to the state through the program, for example.

Malcolm also told reporters that vaccine patients aren’t required to give such personal information to health care providers or the state. MDH is also collecting information through its voluntary Vaccine Connector site and through its vaccination clinics.

The state’s vaccine data dashboard says the race and ethnicity data accounts for 83 percent of people who have a COVID-19 immunization record with MDH. The dashboard will be updated weekly on Fridays.

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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