1 year since MDH officials initially received word on COVID-19

Wednesday marks one year since staff at the Minnesota Department of Health first received word of a mysterious illness spreading in China.

A year later, we now know that illness as COVID-19. On Wednesday, state health officials provided an update on the efforts to administer the new COVID-19 vaccine.

The state health department says if you’re "an average Minnesotan" you can expect to get your COVID-19 vaccine in late spring and summer.

For now, more than 38,000 people across the state have received it. MDH said that number will accelerate.

Kris Ehresmann, director of MDH Infectious Disease, said, "It was exactly one year ago today when our staff received the first notification of a cluster of unexplained pneumonia in a province in China."

"It’s a sober anniversary to be sure," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

As we turn the page on 2020, the state health department says the number of newly confirmed cases is trending down.

"Definitely significant improvement but we are still in a risky situation in terms of how easily this virus can turn around and go the other way again," Malcolm said.

Full COVID-19 coverage from KSTP

The 38,284 COVID-19 vaccinations have been given out at 277 provider sites to people in the Phase 1-A priority group, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents.

An advisory group is meeting in mid-January to provide the state with recommendations for the people in Phase 1-B, which the state says will likely include people 75 years of age and older and front line essential workers.

"I know it’s tempting to ask why vaccination isn’t happening faster but actually if you step back and think about it vaccination is happening at an unprecedented pace," Ehresmann said.

The state says it’s still too early to determine how vaccine counts will affect restrictions on places like restaurants and health clubs.

"It’s going to be some months before a large enough share of the population gets vaccinated to really change the risk profile, if you will," Malcolm said.

The state health department says it’s currently seeing lower testing numbers. It says there is a lot more testing capacity around the state than is being used right now. Health officials continue to remind Minnesotans that testing helps lower transmission rates.