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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesota reports six cases of variant first found in India

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that 2,589,032 people — or roughly 46.5 percent of the state population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

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 May 4, 2021:

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581,335 cases; 7,174 deaths

Eleven more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 7,174.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Tuesday, two were in their 80s, three were in their 70s, five were in their 60s and one was in their 40s. One of the 11 people whose deaths announced Tuesday was a resident of a long-term care facility.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 581,335 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 995 from the total announced on Monday and is based on 13,840 new tests. The last time Minnesota reported fewer than 1,000 new cases in a day was March 23, though Tuesday’s data comes on a relatively small number of tests.

The seven-day case positivity average, which lags by a week, is 5.9 percent. That’s above a 5-percent threshold state officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread, but down from 6.6 percent the week prior. The positivity rate has dropped for weeks now, though MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she doesn’t expect the positivity rate to keep dropping in coming days based on initial data collected during the lag period.

As of Sunday, the most recent data available, MDH has reported 2,589,032 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s roughly 46.5 percent of the state population and an increase of 3,979 from the day prior. The state has reported an average of 17,232 first-dose vaccinations over the last week, a rate that has dropped sharply over the last three weeks from a seven-day average of 40,085 on April 11.

This dip has come during a period of lower supply of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because of a federal safety review and overall demand that could be slowing. (The feds said the J&J vaccine is safe and approved states to begin using it again.)

MDH reports 1,991,815 Minnesotans, about 35.8 percent of the population, have completed a full vaccine series.

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The most recent data available show 149 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 426 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. That’s down from Friday, when MDH reported 166 Minnesotans in the ICU with COVID-19 and 453 in the hospital 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.

Six cases of variant first identified in India found in Minnesota

Minnesota has found six cases in April of a COVID-19 variant that was first identified in India known as B1617. The six people were from three households, and people from two of those households had a “known association with travel,” said MDH infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.

Ehresmann told reporters the infected people ranged in age from adolescents to people in their 60s, and she said one person who contracted the virus was hospitalized.

The variant spread comes as India experiences an enormous surge in COVID-19 that has overwhelmed the country’s health care system. Ehresmann said the virus strain found in India is categorized by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest,” meaning it could have mutations that make it more transmissible or dangerous. But the strain is not considered a “variant of concern,” a more severe designation attached to strains like B117, first identified in the U.K., which is known to be more contagious.

Ehresmann said federal restrictions on travel from India were implemented today, which bar foreign nationals who have been in India within 14 days from entering the country. The limits have exceptions for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

State to ‘ramp up’ efforts to make it easier for people to get vaccinated

Malcolm said Tuesday that Minnesota is looking to “ramp up” its strategies to connect people with vaccines closer to where they live, work or congregate. Those who were eager to get vaccinated have been able to find a shot, and now Malcolm said the state has plenty of vaccine supply but less demand at more central locations.

“It’s one thing to vaccinate people lining up for you,” Ehresmann said. “Another is shifting strategy to getting to where people are at and providing them with vaccines.”

Ehresmann said as the state tries to reach people who are willing to get vaccinated but haven’t been yet, they expect to make slower progress. Successes, she said “are going to be harder to come by in this phase.”

The state already has mobile vaccination units, and Ehresmann said another example of their new strategy might be allowing clinics and doctor’s offices to vaccinate patients on the spot who come in for checkups or other health concerns.

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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