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43 more COVID-19 deaths, 1,598 new cases in Minnesota

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COVID-19 has taken another 43 lives in Minnesota while 1,598 new cases were announced Thursday by state health officials.

So far, 5,817 state residents have died in the pandemic, with 64% of them residents of long-term care, including 23 of the new deaths.

A total of 153,332 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, including 15,082 who have now gotten the second shot, making them fully vaccinated.

The state is on track to get a total of 558,300 doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by next week. Most of those are being sent to health care facilities or local public health agencies, but about 105,000 are reserved for nursing homes.

There is a lag time in vaccine reporting, with the most current information available including 9,637 shots entered into the state’s vaccine database last Tuesday.

Minnesota health officials are planning for a possible change in COVID-19 vaccine distribution after the federal government announced Tuesday that states could broaden access to the shots to everyone aged 65 and up, as well as those who have underlying health conditions that make them susceptible to coronavirus complications.

In Minnesota, that would expand the pool of those eligible for the vaccine to 2.2 million state residents. It also raises questions about vaccine availability for front-line essential workers, including police, fire, transit workers and grocery store employees, who were scheduled to be included in the next round.

The federal government has yet to provide detailed guidance to the states, including how many doses it will allocate in the coming weeks.

“We didn’t get any warning about this so we were very surprised,” state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann told a Minnesota Senate health committee Wednesday. “There’s just a lot of uncertainty at this point about what will happen.”

The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week could also bring more changes in federal COVID-19 vaccine policy, with new leadership in health agencies and pandemic advisers.

Of the 441,935 state residents known to have been infected by the coronavirus, 420,919 of them are no longer considered to be infectious.

Most people who are sickened experience mild or no symptoms, but those with underlying health conditions, including heart, lung and kidney disease are at the most risk.

In Minnesota hospitals, 645 patients were getting care for COVID-19 complications, including 131 in intensive care units.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen 70% since Dec. 1.

A total of 36,678 test results were reported to state officials.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192

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