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 March 23, 2021:

507,231 cases; 6,789 deaths

Seven more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 6,789.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Tuesday, one was in their 80s, three were in their 70s, two were in their 50s and one was in their 20s. None of the seven people whose deaths announced Tuesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

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While MDH reported seven deaths after reporting none on Monday, deaths are at a relatively low level compared to much of the pandemic. Minnesota has reported an average of five deaths a day over the last week, compared to 7.5 the week prior and 9.7 the week before that.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 507,231 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 855 from the total announced on Monday and is based on 13,314 new tests. The seven-day positive case average, which lags by a week, is 4.5 percent. While that’s slightly below a 5-percent threshold state officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread, the positivity rate has been rising. Last Tuesday, it was 3.9 percent. And MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she expects the state to cross the 5-percent line soon based on more recent data.

As of Sunday, the most recent data available, 1,437,932 Minnesotans — roughly 25.8 percent of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s up 7,583 from data reported the day prior. The state typically reports fewer vaccinations on Sundays.

MDH also says 854,827 residents have completed their vaccine series. About 78.9 percent of Minnesotans who are age 65 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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The most recent data available show 87 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19 and 238 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. The number of people in the ICU is up 10 from Monday’s numbers and up 28 from last Tuesday, and the number of hospitalized people outside of the ICU is down by three from Monday but up by 37 from last Tuesday. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

Variants ‘already dominating’ in Minnesota

Ruth Lynfield, the state’s top epidemiologist, told reporters Tuesday that a more contagious strain of COVID-19 known as B117, which was originally identified in the United Kingdom, is “already dominating” in Minnesota based on new test results.

Lynfield said that at one lab that searches for variants, between 50 to 65 percent of positive COVID-19 samples between March 16 and 20 were B117 variants, up from 38 to 44 percent during March 10 to 15.

Minnesota only investigates a small number of COVID-19 tests to find out which strain of the disease made someone sick, but Lynfield said the state is planning to ramp up its surveillance of the disease. So far, MDH says it has found 479 cases of B117, up from 317 on Friday.

Much of that spread has been among school-age children. The virus appears to be spreading more easily among kids than past strains, and many children are also involved in more in-person activities compared to adults, such as classes and athletics. Children also can’t be vaccinated yet.

Few ‘breakthrough’ cases reported in vaccinated people

There have been very few reported cases of people contracting COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, said Kris Ehresmann, MDH’s infectious disease director.

Out of more than 800,000 people who have completed a vaccine series, Ehresmann said the state has detected 89 cases. None of those infected people have died.

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Ehresmann said the data illustrates that vaccines are extremely effective, though not perfect. And even in “breakthrough cases,” when a vaccinated person becomes ill, the vaccines still offer some protection against severe disease.

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MDH’s coronavirus website: 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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