MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Just moments before Gov. Tim Walz was set to announce a significant expansion in the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, health officials reported Friday that there were 1,714 new cases of the virus and seven more deaths.
At 11:30 a.m., the governor is expected to tell Minnesotans that residents ages 16 and older will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Tuesday. While this will make thousands of more Minnesotans eligible for shots, the state says that providers will still prioritize vaccinations for older Minnesotans, those with underlying health conditions, and those in frontline jobs.
According to the latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health, the state's cumulative COVID-19 case count has reached 512,097 since the pandemic began last March. The state's death toll stands at 6,821.
Over the course of the past month, officials have recorded an increase in the spread of the virus, which they believe could be fueled by variants. The latest positivity rate data, a rolling seven-day average, shows a rate of 4.7% as of March 17. While that's below the 5% "caution" threshold, it's still a full percentage point increase since the start of the month, when the positivity rate was at 3.5%.
The recent uptick in cases comes as more and more Minnesotans have been vaccinated. So far, more than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in Minnesota, mostly of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As of Wednesday, 1.5 million Minnesotans had received their first dose and more than 900,000 residents -- 16% of the state's population -- had received the full series.
Health officials are still encouraging Minnesotans to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and get tested.
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