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COVID In Minnesota: Positivity Rate Nears 'High Risk'; Walz Says Vaccination Events Helped Close Gaps Among BIPOC Communities

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) --  As the state health department is raising concern, calling new COVID-19 case and death numbers "extraordinarily high and concerning" and that a "truly alarming spike in cases" has happened in recent days, the agency reports that there have been 5,123 newly reported positive cases, and 43 more deaths due to the virus in the last 24 hours. Of those deaths, one Douglas County resident was in their early 30s.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday morning that the Minnesota Health Department has hosted more than 1,000 community vaccination events since February, and said the efforts have helped close the first-dose vaccination gaps between BIPOC communities and the state's overall average.

Walz said that since May, the gap has decreased among Hispanic Minnesotans by almost 80%, among Black Minnesotans by 66%, and by 10% among Native American Minnesotans.

"While we're making progress, there is still more work to do to make sure every Minnesotan can get their shot, and we're not slowing down. Now that every Minnesotan 5 years of age and older can get the vaccine, we're expanding our community clinic mission in school buildings to make sure every child and family in Minnesota can get protection from COVID-19. My deepest gratitude to our community partners who continue to serve Minnesotans everywhere," Walz said.

Walz thanked local public health agencies, health care systems, tribal nations, pharmacies, clinics, and regional healthcare coalitions for their role in helping vaccinate Minnesota's populace.

The news comes two weeks from the Thanksgiving holiday. And as Minnesotans finalize their Thanksgiving plans, health officials encouraged them to take advantage of testing options and use known mitigation strategies, such as wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status.

"This spike is bad, it's scary," MDH Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "But it would be so much worse...if it weren't for the fact that most Minnesotans now do have the protection of the vaccine."

Latest COVID Case Figures

According to the Minnesota Department of Health's daily update, the state's total number of people who have been infected by COVID has risen to 827,658 since the pandemic began, with 8,968 deaths attributed to the virus. Health officials say 9,129 have been reinfected since the start of the pandemic.

The health department said earlier this week that the system was overwhelmed by the case load, and that high counts were likely to contain spillover figures from the weekend.

Minnesota's latest rolling seven-day average positivity rate is reaching levels not yet seen in 2021, now at 9.3%. There are also a reported 52.7 daily new cases per 100,000 Minnesota residents, which puts the state well above the line considered high risk (which is all the way down at 10 per 100,000).

As of Thursday morning, figures from the Minnesota Department of Health showed that about 67.3% of Minnesotans 5 and older had received at least one vaccine dose, and 95.7% of those 65 or older had received at least one dose. In total, the state has administered 7,195,503 doses of vaccine, with about 3.32 million residents having completed their vaccine series.

There have been more than 591,000 vaccine booster shots given to eligible Minnesotans.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise again. Total ICU bed usage among COVID-19 patients is at 257. Additionally, there are currently 902 COVID-19 patients being hospitalized in non-ICU beds. The rate of new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents is at 14.6.

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