Rates of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to decline in Minnesota on Friday, but health officials urged unvaccinated people to remain cautious and to reduce their risk of viral exposure.
While the eight COVID-19 deaths and 257 new infections reported Friday raised Minnesota’s pandemic totals to 7,445 fatalities and 602,134 infections, all indicators of viral transmission levels in the state continued to decline. The positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic testing dropped to a new pandemic low of 3%, suggesting low levels of viral spread in Minnesota right now. COVID hospitalizations in the state dropped from a peak this year of 699 on April 14 to 252 on Thursday.
“The numbers today are as encouraging and as good over the last several days as we have seen in Minnesota in over 13 months,” Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday during a visit to the Minnesota Zoo, which is part of a group offering incentives for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Vaccination appears to have hastened the end of this spring’s COVID-19 wave, despite the emergence of a more infectious B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus that is causing three-fourths of new infections in Minnesota. Nearly 3 million people 12 and older have received COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota and more than 2.6 million have completed the one- or two-dose series.
Efforts to expand access include the opening Saturday of a state pop-up vaccination clinic at Terminal 1 of the Minneapolis — Saint Paul International Airport. Single-dose shots will be offered seven days a week to travelers 18 and older.
“I encourage everyone flying from Terminal 1 who hasn’t been vaccinated to arrive a little early, get vaccinated and help protect themselves and others,” said Brian Ryks, chief executive of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
At least 64.9% of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least a first dose of vaccine, bringing the state closer to its goal of 70% by July 1.
More than 81,354 adolescents 12 to 15 have received COVID-19 vaccine since they became eligible to receive the Pfizer version in mid-May, amounting to 28% of that age group in Minnesota. However, vaccination progress has slowed, and health officials urged parents to schedule their children for shots.
Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologists contributed to a national study, published Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that showed the risks of COVID-19 hospitalizations for people age 12 to 17. While the risks are low — peaking at 2.1 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 adolescents age 12 to 17 in January — researchers noted that one fourth of the hospitalized children needed intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications from their infections.
Cumulative COVID-19 hospitalization rates in 2021 more than doubled the typical hospitalization rates seen in children and adolescents due to seasonal influenza.
The CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, urged in a written statement that adolescents should seek vaccine and wear masks and take other preventive measures to avoid infections until they receive their shots.
“I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” she said in the statement. “Much of this suffering can be prevented.”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744