MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota health officials reported no new deaths due to COVID-19 on Monday for the first time in nearly a year, even while virus cases in Carver County continue to climb at a near-record pace.
The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 1,152 new cases, putting the state at 506,376 cases and 6,782 deaths since the start of the pandemic a year ago. While Mondays tend to feature fewer deaths reported than average, the figure is the first time the state has reported no new deaths in a daily situation update since April 13, the Star Tribune reported.
Despite the good news on deaths, health officials have said in recent weeks they’re worried about the spread of coronavirus mutations — called variants — in different parts of Minnesota, which they say could derail the state’s progress in fighting the pandemic.
Officials said the state is in a race against the spread of the variants and reaching Gov. Tim Walz’s goal of 80% of the state’s population being fully vaccinated.
Carver County has been a hotspot for a virus variant first found in the United Kingdom, according to state officials. On Monday, the county had a cumulative 7,721 COVID-19 cases, and increase of nearly 200 cases from the Monday, March 15 tally of 7,496 cases. According to Carver County officials, March 2021 is on track to chart the third-highest volume of new virus cases in the pandemic - around 1,100 new cases by the end of the month, if current trends are sustained. December 2020 was the worst month of the pandemic for Carver County, with nearly 3,000 cases identified; followed by January 2021, with more than 1,500 cases identified, according to county officials.
Of the recent rash of new cases, nearly 30 percent of the past week’s new cases were in individuals younger than 20 years of age. The spread among younger residents led the state department of health to recommend a pause in youth sports in Carver County school districts. At Waconia, all non-varsity youth sports were paused, and varsity sports continued on a week-by-week basis with increased COVID-19 screenings. State health officials also recommended that secondary students maintain distance learning protocols, a recommendation the local school board ultimately rejected last week.
While cases continue to climb at an alarming rate in Carver County, vaccinations are continuing at a steady clip - as of Monday, more than 14,000 county residents had received at least one dose of vaccine, while nearly 23,000 residents have completed the vaccine series.
As of Saturday, more than 2.2 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, which includes more than 850,000 who have been fully inoculated.
The state is anticipating just over 151,000 doses this week to administer to people across the state. Walz said Friday he expects an allotment of more than 350,000 next week based on figures from the federal government.