Pandemic measures improved across the board on Monday, when Minnesota reported zero COVID-19 deaths, fewer hospitalizations and 10 straight days of fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus infections.
The seven-day rolling average of infections in Minnesota has dropped 61% since the start of May — with only 469 infections being reported on Monday. The number of inpatient hospital beds filled with COVID-19 cases has dropped as well in Minnesota from 699 on April 14 — at the peak of the latest pandemic wave — to 378 on Sunday.
State leaders credited Minnesota’s vaccination progress for reducing COVID-19 levels despite the presence of more infectious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the respiratory disease. More than 2.8 million people have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 2.5 million of them have completed the one- or two-dose series.
“The more our vaccination numbers rise, the more our COVID-19 numbers fall — and the more life looks like normal,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “We’ve made strong progress, but we need everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible so we can all have the summer we want and be protected from the virus.”
Nearly 59,000 people 12 to 15 have received shots as well since the age eligibility for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was reduced from 16 to 12 two weeks ago.
The latest numbers mean that 63.5% of Minnesotans 16 and older — and more than 89% of vulnerable senior citizens — have received vaccine. The state’s incremental goal is to reach 70% by July, but health officials suspect it could take an even higher vaccination rate to halt the spread of the virus or at least reduce it to small, localized outbreaks.
Pandemic modeling suggests that Minnesota is nearly in a state of herd immunity, meaning that the virus is struggling to spread and multiply, said Curtis Storlie, co-creator of Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 forecasting model.
More vaccination is needed, though, because natural immunity will likely fade from people who were previously infected, making them targets for the virus if they aren’t protected, he said. “All signs point to a quiet summer, but that can change if a variant that can accelerate the waning immunity process comes out of the mass infections in other places in the world such as India.”
The pandemic has caused 7,370 COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota and 599,234 infections found through testing.
The progress comes ahead of Minnesota’s scheduled removal on Friday of remaining capacity caps and social distancing requirements on indoor bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. A state mask mandate was lifted two weeks ago, though some businesses and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul require that they be worn in indoor public spaces to reduce the threat of viral transmission.
The state is reporting a decline as well in bar and restaurant outbreaks — which are defined as infections involving seven customers from different households who reported going to only one establishment in the past month.
Eight such outbreaks have been reported so far in the week that ended May 22, and four were reported in the prior week. Fifty outbreaks were reported during the peak of the latest pandemic wave in the week that ended April 10.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744