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The daily coronavirus update: 9 more deaths; Duluth, Rochester drop mask mandates following Walz decision

MDH reports 40.6 percent of Minnesota’s population — 51.2 percent of those age 16 and older— have completed a full vaccine series.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Monday 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 May 14, 2021:

592,750 cases; 7,283 deaths

Nine more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 7,283.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, two were in their 90s, one was in their 80s, three were in their 70s, one was in their 60s and two were in their 40s. Three of the 9 people whose deaths were announced Friday were residents of long-term care facilities.

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The state has reported an average of 9.6 deaths per day over the last week. The state has hovered around that rate for more than a month.

MDH also said Friday there have been 592,750 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 1,305 from the total announced on Thursday and is based on 36,823 new tests. The seven-day case positivity rate, which lags by a week, is 5.8 percent. That’s above the 5-percent threshold state officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread, but down slightly from the day prior.

As of Wednesday, the most recent data available, 2,694,297 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s roughly 48.4 percent of the state population and an increase of 8,518 from the day prior. MDH says 61.1 percent of those age 16 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, though the number of new first-dose vaccinations continues to drop in Minnesota. 

The state has reported an average of 9,438 Minnesotans who got their first shot of a vaccine over the last week. That’s down from a seven-day rate of 10,208 the day prior and 13,538 the previous Friday. The month-long decline seems to have slowed somewhat over the last week, however.

MDH reports 2,260,019 Minnesotans have completed a full vaccine series. That’s about 40.6 percent of the state population, and an increase of 30,992 from the day prior. Health officials say about 51.2 percent of those age 16 and older have completed a vaccine series.

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The most recent data available show 123 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 341 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. On Thursday, MDh reported 129 Minnesotans were in the ICU and 324 were hospitalized but 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.

Mask mandate lifts officially

Minnesota’s statewide mask mandate was officially lifted Friday when Gov. Tim Walz signed a new executive order rescinding the requirements. Walz signed the order after unanimous approval by the state’s executive council, made up of statewide elected officials.

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul have said they plan to keep their local mask mandates for now, but several other cities — including Duluth, Rochester, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka — said Friday they were either dropping local regulations or wouldn’t implement new ones.

“We certainly respect the decisions being made by local jurisdictions to perhaps keep their mask mandates,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “It actually is part of the CDC guidance and likely will be part of ours that we do encourage local jurisdictions to consider the rate of case growth, test positivity, and some of those other critical public health risk measures as they are looking to make those local decisions.

Businesses can also require masks, and the federal government mandates masks on public transportation like airplanes and buses.

Health officials told reporters Friday they were still concerned about the relatively high level of disease spread in Minnesota and the number of people who aren’t vaccinated. Malcolm also said as regulations are lifted, cases are certain to go up, even if the rise is mitigated by vaccinations and more people spending time outdoors in summer months. “We just know that any time there is more interaction when there is this level of virus circulating there will be more cases,” she said.

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Officials also noted those in zip codes with high scores on the Social Vulnerability Index scale — which measures factors like poverty and demographics — have been vaccinated at lower rates than others.

MDH announced Friday it was partnering with a handful of state health plans like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and HealthPartners to better connect people in high SVI areas to vaccines.

A state news release says Blue Cross and Blue Shield recently used text messaging to contact people in a two-week pilot for the effort and saw a “dramatic” increase in walk-in appointments after.

Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said people who have weakened immune systems should ask for guidance from a doctor on whether to keep masking and social distancing even if they’re vaccinated. And health officials also urged Minnesotans who aren’t vaccinated to continue wearing masks and distancing. 

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Some state capacity limits and regulations on businesses will remain until May 28, despite the end to the statewide mask mandate. Malcolm said that the rules were meant to exist together as “helpful layers on top of each other,” but said keeping the capacity limits alone for now provide a “reasonable glide path” to full capacity and allow businesses some time to plan for the transition.

Malcolm said the state is exploring incentives for vaccines in light of news of novel efforts in other states to spur vaccine interest. Ohio announced a $1 million lottery for those who have been vaccinated, for instance.  Malcolm said they’re working with companies in the state and “very much in the mode of looking for all kinds of creative ways of encouraging that demand.”

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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