Minn. officials pledge 'busy week' for COVID vaccinations after winter storm shipping delays postponed shots

Minnesota health officials expect to administer enough COVID-19 vaccines to catch up within a week after a winter storm across the U.S. forced thousands of appointments to be delayed here.

Over the most recent three-day period, Minnesota reported 31,666 additional people had gotten their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That is roughly 54 percent of the pace from the previous two weeks.

State health officials said all of the backlogged doses would arrive in the state by Wednesday, with this week's shots following closely behind by Friday.

"There's just a lot of scrambling going on," health commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters on a conference call. "Folks and going to work really hard to administer a higher number of doses in a short period of time."

Due to delays in first dose shipments, most of Minnesota's vaccines given in recent days have been second doses, which were already in the state and reserved for this purpose. Over the most recent week, the number of administered second doses outpaced initial doses for the first time.

Doses from manufacturer Moderna were most affected by the shipping delays, which impacted UPS and FedEx distribution hubs in Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee. In all, 6 million doses were delayed nationwide.

All of last week's doses from Moderna are not scheduled to arrive until Wednesday, while a smaller backlog from Pfizer will be cleared Monday, health officials said.

"We are receiving the full number of doses," infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said. "We anticipate it will be a busy week for administration."

Appointments at both state-run sites and health care providers had to be postponed late last week and into the weekend. Some people may still be getting calls to delay their first dose, Malcolm said.

"We appreciate Minnesotans' patience with potential rescheduling," she said.

Last week, Minnesota was in line to receive 88,000 first doses before the winter storm delayed shipments. This week, the state is scheduled to get 108,890 first doses because of manufacturing gains at Pfizer and Moderna.

Minnesota's reporting lags by two days, meaning the vaccinations reported over the weekend and Monday occurred last Wednesday through Friday.

Hy-Vee joins federal pharmacy provider program

Hy-Vee has joined Walmart and Thrifty White in the federal retail pharmacy program in Minnesota.

About 10,000 doses will go to 30 Hy-Vee pharmacies this week, Gov. Tim Walz's office said in a news release.

Patients can look up their pharmacy's availability online or through the state's vaccine finder website.

President Joe Biden's administration launched the retail pharmacy program two weeks ago, then doubled the supply to 2 million from 1 million after the first week. Minnesota gets roughly 1.7 percent of the nationwide supply.

1 in 7 Minnesotans have at least 1st vaccine dose

Around one in seven Minnesotans now have at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest report from the state health department. 

MDH reported on Monday that as of Feb. 20, 759,747 people in Minnesota have at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 356,911 people are fully vaccinated, which is roughly 14% and 6% of the state’s population. Reporting lags real-time numbers by a few days. 

At least 358,139 Minnesota seniors have at least their first dose of the vaccine, or around 42% of the state’s population age 65 and older.

561 new cases, 1 death reported Monday

MDH reported 561 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death attributed to the coronavirus on Monday, the first time since Aug. 31 that Minnesota has reported only one death. 

The 561 newly reported cases were out of 17,666 tests—a 3.2% positivity rate. Minnesota has averaged a 3.2% positivity rate over the last seven days. Anything over 5% is a concern for MDH. 

The single death reported on Monday was a Ramsey County resident in their early 80s who lived in a long-term care or assisted living facility. 

Minnesota has now recorded 479,591 cases of COVID-19 since the first infection was reported in the state last March. Over 97% of Minnesota’s cases have recovered to the point where the infected person no longer needs to be isolated from others. 

A total of 6,433 people in Minnesota have died from COVID-19 to date. There are currently 235 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota, the fewest since September. The number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU, 48, is at its lowest point since April, according to MDH officials. 

39 COVID-19 outbreaks tied to bars and restaurants, 85 to sports

Thirty-nine outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to bars and restaurants in Minnesota so far this year, according to the latest data from the state health department. 

The Minnesota Department of Health reported three COVID-19 outbreaks were tied to bars and restaurants in January and 36 in February as of Feb. 18. 

There have been a total of 509 COVID-19 outbreaks linked to Minnesota bars and restaurants since June 1, according to MDH. MDH defines outbreaks in bars or restaurants as five or more cases from unique households that mentioned only that one restaurant or bar within one month. 

Gov. Tim Walz loosened the state’s COVID-19 restrictions last month to allow indoor dining to resume in a limited capacity. Health officials also reported 85 COVID-19 outbreaks linked to sports so far this year, with 43 in January and 42 in February as of Feb. 13. A sports outbreak is defined as two or more cases on the same team or in the same sports program that cannot be traced to other infection sources. 

Youth and adult sports resumed practices on Jan. 4 and games and competitions resumed on Jan. 14.