Unvaccinated continue to drive COVID-19 growth in Minnesota

By Jeremy Olson

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota over the past week identified another 6,012 breakthrough coronavirus infections in fully vaccinated individuals, but trend data continue to show that unvaccinated people are hardest hit by the latest COVID-19 wave.

The identification of breakthrough infections occurred during a seven-day period in which 20,516 more infections were detected through diagnostic testing in Minnesota. While unvaccinated people make up 38% of Minnesota's population — including children 11 and younger who aren't eligible for the shots — a comparison with the breakthrough data shows that they made up about 71% of the infections identified in the past week.

Breakthrough and total infection numbers are confirmed and reported separately by the state, though, making this a rough estimate.

State health officials have urged remaining unvaccinated Minnesotans to seek shots against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

More than 98% of fully vaccinated Minnesotans haven't suffered infections, which is significant considering that some breakthrough cases were inevitable and that a fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus has emerged, said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director. "That is a pretty significant proportion of the vaccinated population. The unvaccinated continue to be the driving force behind the high rates of transmission we are seeing."

The state has reported 738,843 infections since the start of the pandemic nearly 20 months ago as well as 8,320 COVID-19 deaths. The totals include 3,223 infections and 25 deaths reported Monday.

The latest state report included a death of someone 35 to 39 from St. Louis County — the 87th COVID-19 death in the pandemic involving someone younger than 40. People younger than 65 made up only 12% of COVID-19 deaths reported by the state before July 1, but 25% of the deaths since that time.

Predictive models in recent weeks have forecast that COVID-19 levels in Minnesota will gradually increase or stay level through October and decline in November — following trends of other harder-hit states in the South that have seen infection numbers decline. Mayo Clinic's 14-day forecast predicts that Minnesota will see its infection numbers grow from 3,100 per day to 4,100 in two weeks.

The state on Monday reported a 7.8% positivity rate of recent COVID-19 diagnostic testing, above the 5% warning threshold for substantial viral spread and an increase from 6.5% at the start of September. Testing numbers also are at their highest since late December, indicating that the rise in positivity reflects more viral spread rather than more selective testing of infected individuals.

The number of inpatient beds filled with COVID-19 patients increased on Friday to 915, the first time the total has been above 900 since Dec. 29 — after COVID-19 vaccines first became available.

Hospital leaders said the combination of patients admitted for COVID-19 as well as traumatic injuries and other causes is filling up available beds. State data on Friday showed that more than 96% of available intensive care beds were filled and more than 93% of non-COVID inpatient beds were occupied as well.

Minnesota's weekly report on Mondays of breakthrough data showed a total of 38,808 infections in fully vaccinated people, including 1,934 people who were hospitalized and 234 who died of COVID-19. The number of breakthrough COVID-19 deaths makes up only 0.007% of the state's fully vaccinated population of more than 3.2 million people, but is an increase of 49 from the total reported last Monday

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