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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesotans urged to sign up for 'vaccine connector'

The daily coronavirus update: Minnesotans urged to sign up for 'vaccine connector'

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MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Sunday through Friday. The information is published following a press phone call with members of the Walz administration or after the release of daily COVID-19 figures by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Here are the latest updates from Feb. 18, 2021:

476,292 cases; 6,404 deaths

Fourteen more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday, for a total of 6,404.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Thursday, three were in their 90s, five were in their 80s, four were in their 70s, one was in their 60s and one was in their 30s. Eight of the 14 people whose deaths announced Thursday were residents of long-term care facilities.

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The state has reported an average of 8.7 deaths over the last seven days, the first time there have been fewer than an average of nine deaths over a weeklong period since Oct. 4-10.

MDH also said Thursday there have been 476,292 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 913 from the total announced on Wednesday and is based on 33,915 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 3.7 percent. That’s below a 5-percent threshold the state considers to be a concerning sign of disease spread.

The most recent data show 710,305 Minnesotans, which is roughly 12.8 percent of the state population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The state reports 264,122 residents have received both shots in the two-dose vaccine series.

The most recent data available show 54 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 233 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

State urges people to sign up for ‘vaccine connector’ to alert eligible residents

The state announced a new online vaccine connector site Thursday and encouraged residents not yet vaccinated or on the 65-plus wait list to sign up.

Demographic information is asked, as is whether a resident has underlying health conditions or is an essential worker. Once someone on the connector is eligible, they will receive an email, text or phone call. The state continues to have more demand than vaccine doses, but officials said signing up before you might be eligible will help speed the rollout of doses once they arrive in the state.

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All of the current vaccinators are part of the system, so a resident might be sent to a health care system, a pharmacy or a mass-vaccination pop-up clinic. The state has been getting about 88,000 doses a week and have focused on health care providers, long-term care residents and now residents age 65 and over, child-care workers and teachers. The state expects weekly doses totals to increase, reaching 100,000 in the next week or two and increasing incrementally after that.

“We want to grow those rates just as fast as the supply coming into us will allow,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday. The connector program, she said, “is gonna be a great tool to help all Minnesotans no matter who we are, what eligibility category we are in, when we anticipate getting vaccinated.

“It will help us better identify when, where and how we will be able to get our COVID-19 vaccine,” she said. 

The connector is online at mn.gov/vaccineconnector. Residents without computer access can call 833-431-2053. Translation is available by phone in all languages. Minnesotans can call the translation hotline at 833-431-2053 for assistance signing up over the phone. There is no first-come, first-served aspect of this system.

The site asks demographic information that could be used to prioritize access. That is, people with underlying health conditions could be moved up. But as of now, access will be random within each eligibility group, Malcolm said.

“The value of collecting that information is so as those groups become eligible we can do proactive outreach,” she said. But many groups have been trying to make the case that they should move up in status.

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“The original federal guidance said those with underlying conditions are further down but as the data have been getting clearer and clearer we are definitely taking a look in those next couple of waves how do we deal with those with underlying conditions,” Malcolm said. “We agree the sooner the better in getting more information out to Minnesotans as to who would follow the current wave.”

The connector could also be used to quickly alert people who live or work near a site that has extra doses that would be wasted if not delivered quickly.

State IT Commission Tarek Tomes said he is confident the data collected is secure and will not be shared outside the Department of Health. 

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MDH’s coronavirus website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

MDH’s phone line for COVID-19 questions, Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m: 651-297-1304

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