Minnesota COVID-19 ICU cases hit 230, most since December

Minnesota reported 230 people in hospital intensive-care units Monday with COVID-19 infections, the most since December.

In total, there were 757 people hospitalized with the virus, the highest since Jan. 7. Minnesota's infection rate has been climbing since mid-July, with the delta variant responsible for the current wave.

Meanwhile, Pfizer said its vaccine was effective in children ages 5 to 11 and said it would seek emergency use authorization from U.S. regulators by the end of September. The Food and Drug Administration has taken about a month to review previous applications.

Pfizer said a lower dose of its shot produced similar antibody levels in younger children as teens and young adults who've received a bigger dose.

"It matched very closely," said Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president. "And since we know that 16- to 25-year-olds are protected and antibody is a good measure of that protection, having matched that antibody response, we're likely to match the protection."

Some parents have been anxiously waiting the news, fearing that the start of school this month would lead to a spike in infections. Health officials have cautioned it's too soon to know what effect school has had on infection rates because reported cases lag by several days.

Pfizer's vaccine is already authorized for children ages 12 and older, though only 47 percent of Minnesota kids ages 12-15 and 54 percent of those ages 16-17 are fully vaccinated.

In Minnesota, 75,000 children under the age of 15 have tested positive for the coronavirus, with about one-sixth of them coming in the current wave. Minnesota does not break out cases specifically for ages 11 and younger.

Children rarely suffer serious cases of COVID-19. Only three Minnesota kids have died from the virus, and children under the age of 15 make up fewer than 2 percent of total hospitalizations.

If Pfizer's shot receives regulatory approval for younger kids, Minnesota is likely to struggle with the same vaccination disparities it has seen in adults.

In the seven-county Metro, nearly 80 percent of people ages 16 and older have gotten at least one shot. But in some central Minnesota counties, vaccination rates are at 50 percent or below.

Differences also exist within Minneapolis. On Monday, city health officials said southwest, northeast and downtown Minneapolis were more than 80 percent fully vaccinated among eligible populations. But in near north, Cedar-Riverside and near the University of Minnesota, vaccination rates were 55 percent or less.

Noya Woodrich, the city's assistant health commissioner, said Minneapolis would hire additional staffers in the coming weeks to promote vaccines in the Somali, Black and Latino communities. In some cases, people who get a first dose aren't returning for their second.

"There is a gap between first and second doses that we need to be working on in our communities," she told the City Council's Public Health and Safety committee Monday.