Minnesota COVID-19 briefing: Minnesota 1 of 4 states chosen for vaccine pilot group

Monday afternoon, Minnesota health officials provided the latest update on the state’s COVID-19 situation.

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Infectious Diseases Director Kris Ehresmann talked about the state’s climbing infection rate, COVID-related scams that are circulating and how Minnesota is one of just a few states to help lead with the rollout of a COVID vaccine when it’s ready.

While testing continues to increase, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to climb at an even faster rate.

The seven-day average rolling infection rate for Minnesota is at 5.1%, up from 4.8% last Monday. There’s also been a 19% increase in ICU patients in the past week, Malcolm said.

She noted that it takes everyone doing their part to beat the virus and stop the spread, and MDH encourages everyone to follow the guidance it has issued.

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The biggest news from Monday’s call was when Malcolm and Ehresmann talked about working with their federal colleagues in battling the virus. They noted that federal officials have said Minnesota, because of the rising infection rate and hospitalizations, should be looking at closing things down again or dialing back. Malcolm and Ehresmann said it’s been a struggle getting people to comply with the guidance that was issued, and while the goal is to keep things open and not have to dial back, it’s something they’ll continue to monitor and consider should the situation continue to worsen.

They also said there is some planning already underway for when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.

Ehresmann said a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group generally provides guidance for how to prioritize vaccines, given that it’ll take time to get enough for everyone and some people will need it sooner than others. The group will issue guidance for states, and it’ll then be up to states to implement that guidance.

Ehresmann also said Minnesota was one of just four states invited by the CDC to be part of a pilot group that will look at rolling out the vaccine and planning for that time. Ehresmann said Minnesota was selected due to the strength of its immunization program and a strong history of outreach to communities.

Here are some other highlights from Monday’s briefing:

  • From July 10 to the end of the month, the state received 370 complaints about bars and restaurants not complying with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Ehresmann talked briefly about plasma donations, saying those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 can have antibodies in their plasma that can be used to help others fighting the virus. A study of convalescent plasma for battling COVID-19 is still ongoing.
  • Ehresmann also noted blood banks are facing shortages and have made efforts to make it safe for donating blood. She encouraged Minnesotans to consider giving blood, if able.
  • MDH officials have seen scams making the rounds related to contact tracing and wearing masks. One of the scams features a "get out of mask" free card that appears to be posted by a federal agency. Ehresmann pointed out that those are fake and urged residents to go directly to state and federal websites to find accurate information on COVID guidelines.
  • MDH hasn’t been going back to review and see the long-term effects of COVID with patients who have recovered because of the large number of cases. Ehresmann noted that Minnesotans will very likely be asked to participate in studies about moving forward after having COVID-19. As of now, it’s still too early to be able to determine long-term issues because the virus is still so new.

MDH: 622 new COVID-19 cases, 2 new deaths