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'Clarifying COVID: Expert Q&A' Debuts!

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been about a year since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Minnesota. And since then, life has changed and the virus has evolved.

Even though we know more about this virus now than we did last March, there's still a lot of information to track -- and it can get a bit overwhelming. So, every week, we'll be asking experts about recent COVID-19 developments.

This week, we talk with Dr. George Morris, who is the Physician Vice President for Performance Excellence at CentraCare. Since January of last year, he's been serving as the physician incident commander for CentraCare's COVID-19 response.

Clarifying COVID: When Will Kids Get Vaccinated? How Far Away Are We From The End Of The Pandemic? by WCCO - CBS Minnesota on YouTube

Watch the video above, or read his answers to some of the bigger COVID-19 questions below.

When will most adult Minnesotans receive the vaccine?

I would like to see it as three-month groups. You know, if we have three priority groups, we're in the group one, along with a few others now. That'll take us at least three months, then we have the next three months for the middle. You know, you might say people with chronic diseases, and that's many, so you can count that April, May, June. And then I think we're going to be left with, you know, July, August, September.

But I would like to see us being able to offer it to everybody by September, which means we're kind of on line with fall and the school starts.

What about children? When will they get vaccinated?

The drug companies, the manufacturers that are making these products are doing trials in adolescence. So think about it as, currently one of them is approved under 16 and the other 18. So, now we're trying to get that down to 12. Once we identify that it's safe for 12, then we'll go down to like nine or six and kind of start going down that way.

I would expect by fall, we could have approval to be starting to look at vaccines and you know, get more of that teenage, younger teenage population.

What do we need to know about COVID variants?

Viruses change over time, this is normal, you know, we've seen this with influenza virus, we see it with other ones. So, these changes can be minor, they can be medium, maybe you might call these more shifts or strains. They can be severe, where it really changes a lot. And that's what COVID did to get into our bodies, it did a severe change.

So, we're probably focused more on these minor and medium changes. And our goal is to eradicate this as soon as possible, so that the virus has less chance of changing in the future.

How is Minnesota doing compared to other states in terms of cases and vaccines?

We're probably down in the bottom 10, bottom 15 for states in the U.S. for our new case rate.

I believe we've received over a million vaccines, you know, shipped to us from the federal government. And we've administered around 900,000. (That's as of Feb. 15, the state has since recorded more than 1 million doses administered)

We're right in the middle (for the vaccination rate). Our average rate is right in the middle. We're average with the rest of the country. Of course we'd like to be above-average, that's our goal, and we're trying to do everything we can to get the vaccine and deliver it into people's arms.

How far away are we from the end of the pandemic?

We're a long ways from the end.

Remember, these are the same viruses that cause common colds, you know, so there is a chance that it could just linger on at some level.

Our goal now is to eradicate this COVID-19 variant. And get it out of us as much as possible. We really need that 70% to 90% herd immunity.

NOTE: COVID-19 data in Minnesota is updated daily by the Minnesota Department of Health. You can find updates on our coronavirus page, as well as the health department's website.

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