Apr 22, 2021 - News

Minnesota turns a corner in the fight against COVID

Illustration of an upright vaccine syringe wearing a hero's cape

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Minnesota is seeing some encouraging signs on the COVID-19 front.

What's happening: Case numbers and the positivity rate are both declining following variant-driven increases that troubled public health officials, as MPR News notes.

The big picture: Both data points are good news in our race to vaccinate a critical mass of Minnesotans before more contagious variants spread further. We're nearing a point where vaccination rates should drive down cases even more.

  • "By the time we get up to 60 to 65%, my anticipation is that the Minnesota numbers will really start to decline," University of Minnesota epidemiologist Ryan Demmer told the Star Tribune this week.

Yes, but: Hospitalizations, which typically lag cases, remain at an elevated level. As of Monday, intensive care cases were up 21% from seven days earlier, according to The Star Tribune.

  • And the pace of vaccinations has slowed, due in part to the pause in using one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots. Shipments are expected to remain lower than usual through next week.

What to watch: Even with the drop in supply, we're starting to see more reports of excess vaccine appointments. The Mayo Clinic announced it's opening its Southern Minnesota slots to non-patients as a result. And a new state-run site near the fairgrounds still has thousands of openings.

  • Early indicators of supply outstripping demand worry public health officials already concerned that the next phase of vaccine outreach — persuading those who aren't highly motivated and not as high risk for serious complications — will be difficult.

The bottom line: Things are looking up, But more progress on vaccinations and case management will be needed to truly turn the corner to a return to more normal life this summer.


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