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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 February 23, 2021:

  • 480,091 cases; 6,434 deaths
  • Walz says he will announce next vaccine priority groups soon
  • State asks dozens of organizations to help people of color, with disabilities vaccines
480,091 cases; 6,434 deaths

One more Minnesotan has died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 6,434.

The person whose death was announced Tuesday was in their 70s and not a resident of a long-term care facility. Health officials also reported one death on Monday, marking the first time the state has announced fewer than two deaths in consecutive days for the first time since March 26 and March 25. At that point in March, the state had just two confirmed cumulative deaths.

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The state has reported 235 deaths so far in February, which is far lower than the death tolls in January (877), December (1,729), November (1,136) and October (423).

Health officials say 762,089 Minnesotans, roughly 13.7 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The state reports 362,156 residents have received both shots in the two-dose vaccine regimen.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 480,091 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 500 from the total announced on Monday and is based on 9,498 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 3.6 percent. That’s below a 5-percent threshold the state considers a concerning sign of disease spread.

The most recent data available show 54 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, and 215 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.

Walz says he will announce next vaccine priority groups soon

Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Tuesday said he expects to announce this week or early next week the timing of additional vaccine groups. He said the federal government is giving state’s three-weeks notice of the number of doses and that advance notice could increase to eight weeks.

He said he thinks the vaccine infrastructure is such that the state could deliver 400,000 to 500,000 doses per week. “That’s how quickly we could go,” Walz said.

“What I’d like to be able to get to you is everybody in Minnesota could see an approximate date when they’re gonna fall into this – my age, my health condition, where I’ll fall in this line.”

Walz said he doesn’t think the state will wait until it vaccinates 100 percent of those 65 and over before opening vaccinations to additional groups.

At what point, 60 and 70 percent? “We can’t hold up giving it to others while we’re waiting for someone to decide whether they’re going to take it,” Walz said.

State asks dozens of organizations to help connect people to vaccines

State officials on Tuesday said they’re partnering with dozens of organizations that serve people of color, American Indian communities, LGTBQ+ people and Minnesotans who have disabilities to connect people in those groups to vaccines.

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Walz and his administration say they want to boost access to vaccines for people who may have a harder time getting the shots, and that things such as language barriers can hinder access. At a news conference Tuesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis, Alfred Babington-Johnson, president of the Stairstep Foundation, said access isn’t the only issue, however.

“There’s mistrust and skepticism,” in vaccines and government Babington-Johnson said.

Babington-Johnson said the state and health care leaders have listened to organizations like his and that work is paying off.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state has had trouble collecting good data on vaccination to see how they’re doing reaching people of color, but the state is asking for that data as part of its online tool to connect people with vaccines released last week. Malcolm said the state is hoping to release some of that data soon.

Today on MinnPost
  • Lawsuit pushes Minnesota’s redistricting process into the courts, where it was likely to end up anyway.
  • Asking yourself how long it’s been since this all started? Us too.
  • As always, a look at the numbers on the MinnPost COVID-19 dashboard.

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Around the web

  • Fed’s Powell: Recovery incomplete, higher inflation unlikely. Story by Associated Press.
  • Fauci says U.S. political divisions contributed to 500,000 dead from COVID-19. 

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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On a frozen Minnesota lake, political antagonisms melt away

On Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota (CNN)I took a walk on a frozen lake recently, worried less about thin ice and more about defrosting people, but I'm happy to report I was wrong.

In my years wandering the upper heartland, I've found that when you want to hear what people think, there are few more target-rich environments than an ice-fishing lake. Ninety-five percent of the sport involves sitting, drinking and talking. On a good day, you catch more new friends than fish. Residents head out for some ice-fishing and conviviality.But these have not been good days. In the 30 years since I covered sturgeon spearing for a tiny TV station in Minnesota, the United States has become is a lot less united. Covering the presidential election and inauguration in neighboring Wisconsin included more ply-wooded windows, body armor and "no comments" than I ever thought possible in my home state. Walking out on Lake Minnetonka, I was worried. But it wasn't 25 paces before a friendly couple walking huge dogs walked over and melted the worry with Midwestern warmth.Kevin and Leah Beamish want people to get along, and sometimes that may mean avoiding talking about politics."Everybody should be loving each other," Leah Beamish told me as she played tug-o-war with Huxley. "There doesn't need to be this ..." she shook her head at the ice. "So divided. So divided." Read MoreBut as I walked from hole to hole, Northern pike to bluegill, Democrat to Republican, they all seemed united against disunity. "There's no common ground anymore," Tim Delaney said. "And everyone's so angry about it. I think we're just tired." 'People are a lot more optimistic'Minnesota is understandably tense these days. Up north, they are bracing for a Standing Rock-sized standoff over the controversial Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. Down in the Twin Cities, concertina wire winds around civic buildings as they brace for the start of the George Floyd murder trial. And in every town in between, the Covid-19 pandemic is met with varying degrees of fear, loathing and pent-up frustration. In this blue suburb of Minneapolis however, where families perched on buckets fish in front of the frozen front yards of million-dollar homes, there is some cautious relief. "I'm really happy with our new President," said Cindy Garin, a 63-year-old health care worker, said as she described her first vaccination and plans for a Florida escape. "I think things are getting better ... and I think people are a lot more optimistic." Ben Calvert sees Democrats delaying fulfilling their promises.But Ben Calvert, 27 and at college to become a wrestling coach, is fast losing faith with Democrats given that they are in charge in the White House, the Senate and the House. "A lot of my friends are really frustrated because they were like, 'We've got to elect these two senators in Georgia! We've got to get Joe Biden in office and then everything's going to be better! It's not a $1,400 dollar check, it's $2,000 checks,'" Ben said, making gloved air quotes. "But now, they're putting that stimulus check and minimum wage hike on the back burner while they're dropping bombs in Syria. And those bombs are kind of expensive for a dude who owes me $2,000." Calmer criticismBen's father, Valdo, has more patience for the new President but told me, "I don't see it smooth sailing for Biden. I see it always going to be about obstructionism, but at least it's more calm." And like so many others on the lake frustrated by American disunity, the retired Forest Service emergency manager wonders how to unite with true believers of conspiracy theories like QAnon. Valdo and Ben Calvert say there are some people they can't be with any more, even with the bonhomie on the lake.His son nods in agreement. "I grew up wrestling and playing sports. You get liberal people, you get conservative people, but we all got along. Now those guys aren't my friends anymore because I know what they really think," Ben told me. "Maybe it's not who they are in their heart, but can you hang out with someone who's like, 'I think it would be a good thing to assassinate the sitting [Speaker of the House.]'"But just a short, fragrant stroll away, barbecue smoke master Tim Delaney described his desire to replace Nancy Pelosi with Donald Trump.Tim Delaney wants Trump back in power, even if he hesitates to say so among his friends of a different political persuasion."What if Trump ran for Congress, right?" Tim said, waving a silver tallboy. "And then we took the House and we took the Senate and then he could impeach the President and Vice President. He would be president for the next two years plus then he would be reelected for another four. Good idea?" Laughter overcomes politicsNone of his friends thought it was a good idea. As far as I could tell, they were all Democrats who obviously believed in the peacekeeping mantra repeated to me by Leah's husband Rich Beamish as we walked on to the lake. "It's the old story," he smiled. "Don't talk politics or religion with friends and family." I don't have that luxury, and the energy shifted noticeably when I strolled over with camera and asked, "How's everybody feeling after the election?" His friends may not agree with the politics of Tim Delaney, left, but they're still happy to break bread with him."We don't go there," Tim said before going there. And while he joked that his burst of MAGA honesty might spoil the barbecue brotherhood, the laughs proved the opposite.
    I walked out onto Lake Minnetonka braced for icy suspicion and dread, but I walked off with a stomach full of barbecue and hope. I'll take it.

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