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COVID In Minnesota: 851 New Cases, 18 More Deaths Reported As Vaccination Push Continues

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As thousands of Minnesota seniors were learning Wednesday if they were selected in this week's COVID-19 vaccine lottery, health officials reported that there were 851 new cases of the virus in the state and 18 more deaths.

The latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that the state's cumulative case count stands at 457,317 while the death toll has reached 6,124. Over the course of the month, daily new infection numbers, fatality counts and hospitalizations have trended downward. This comes even as restrictions on indoor dining, youth sports and small gatherings were lifted earlier this month.

Of the deaths reported Wednesday, 10 of the victims were residents in long-term care facilities. Minnesotans in this demographic have accounted for more than 60% of the state's COVID-19 deaths. Since last month, residents in long-term care, as well as frontline health care workers, have been the top priority in the state's vaccination effort. Health officials say that by next week all individuals in these groups should have at least been offered their first dose.

According to the state's vaccine rollout dashboard, 353,113 doses have been administered in Minnesota, mostly of the Pfizer vaccine. Some 284,441 people have received their first dose while 67,657 people have gotten the full series.

Last week, the rollout effort expanded to include Minnesotans ages 65 and older, kindergarten through 12th grade educators, and child care workers. While doses for these groups are limited, the state is working to expand a pilot program that currently operates nine community vaccination sites across the state. Part of the program includes a weekly vaccine lottery for seniors.

RELATED: More Than 200,000 Seniors Were In This Week's COVID Vaccine Lottery

On Wednesday morning, more than 200,000 seniors who registered for this week's randomized lottery began to be notified if they were selected to be one of about 8,000 to get their first dose in the coming day. The vast majority who were not selected will be put into next week's drawing. Health officials say they hope to expand the lottery effort in the coming weeks, but caution that most people will likely end up getting the vaccine via pharmacies in the weeks ahead.

In Minnesota hospitals, 477 people were battling COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 97 patients in intensive care beds. Intensive care hospitalizations are currently at their lowest point since mid-September and down fourfold from peaks reached in late November, when Gov. Tim Walz tightened the state's coronavirus restrictions.

In the last 24 hours, more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests were processed in state. Per the state's dashboard on key virus metrics, the rolling seven-day average positivity rate is at 5% as of Jan. 18, right on what officials label the "caution" threshold. The positivity rate is down from a record peak reached in early November, when it was at 15.5%, well above the "high risk" threshold.

Since the start of the pandemic nearly a year ago, more than 3.2 million people in Minnesota have been tested for the virus. Of those who've tested positive, 441,740 have recovered and are no longer in intensive care.

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