MDH: Delta variant responsible for 3 of 4 COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, vaccines remain effective

Minnesota health officials held their first COVID-19 media briefing in weeks Monday to address the state’s coronavirus situation and how the Delta variant is affecting the state. 

Health commissioner Jan Malcolm said the Delta variant is now the dominant strain in Minnesota, responsible for three out of every four COVID-19 cases in the state. 

However, Malcolm said breakthrough cases, or those among fully vaccinated Minnesotans, "remain very rare." As of July 15, 99.9% of Minnesotans who are fully vaccinated have not contracted the virus, she said. 

Malcolm said that while Minnesota has higher vaccination rates than other states, the state has not yet reached herd immunity, where the vast majority of people in the community are protected and the virus does not have the opportunity to spread. 

To date, only 68.2% of people with at least one dose of vaccine and 65.2% are fully vaccinated. Malcolm said the state expects to reach the milestone of 70% of people 16 and older vaccinated by the end of August. 

The current vaccines have proven to be effective against the Delta variant, but a large number of unvaccinated people in the population increases the possibility the virus will continue to mutate in ways that could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines, she said. 

"We don't want to give the virus any more opportunity to continue to evolve in ways that could potentially, in the future, be more troublesome," Malcolm said. 

Outbreak linked to Provincetown, Mass. Travel

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said MDH is tracking a COVID-19 outbreak, including some breakthrough cases linked to recent travel to Provincetown, Massachusetts. 

Health officials are asking anyone who has traveled to Provincetown recently to get tested for COVID-19, even if they are vaccinated. 

MDH reports 424 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths Monday

MDH reported 424 new cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period on Monday, bringing the total number of cases the state has seen since the pandemic began to 609,810. The state's 7-day rolling average positivity rate, a key indicator of community spread, remains below the caution threshold at 2.3%, although it has been increasing over the last few weeks. 

Three new deaths were reported, including one person in their 40s and one in their 50s. Minnesota has reported 7,653 deaths from COVID-19 to date. 

The latest MDH vaccine data shows 3,128,086 Minnesotans have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 2,977,666 are fully vaccinated. 

Reaction from Gov. Walz

The resurgence comes as state COVID-19 restrictions have ended and many businesses still struggle to return to some form of new stability. Governor Walz said he is not currently contemplating a return to emergency orders, but he is pleading with people to get their shots.

"The real solution on this is we just need for folks to get over any hesitancy they have and get the vaccine," he said.

There is also the issue of timing. The Minnesota State Fair is coming up, drawing large crowds of people. If you’re not currently vaccinated and want to attend the fair without putting yourself at risk, the time to get that shot is right now, so you have immunity.