Assistant Health Commissioner Dan Huff On The Ongoing Fight Against COVID

The number of COVID cases over the past two weeks is up 17%, but the percentage of vaccines is up too (5:42). WCCO Sunday Morning - March 14, 2021

Video Transcript

- This past week, Minnesota COVID cases rose. In fact, the number of cases over the past two weeks is up 17% in Minnesota, but the percentage of vaccines is up, too. Earlier this morning, I spoke with the Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. And joining us right now is Dan Huff, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

DAN HUFF: Well, good morning. Thanks for having me.

- All right. I have to ask you, obviously, the governor has announced a rollback of some of these restrictions. It comes at a time though, when our cases, if you look at the two week totals, are up 17%, and the number of deaths in Minnesota are up 23%. Does that concern you?

DAN HUFF: Well, you know, we are near the finish line. And we Minnesotans have worked very hard. We have had significantly fewer deaths than our neighboring states, especially to the west. And our vaccine rollout is just-- the pace is picking up tremendously. We are very, very hopeful, and we think that we have got the virus on the run, but the numbers you just mentioned, that is why we are saying, still be vigilant. We're not done with this yet. It's not done with us yet. So that is why we're saying, keep masking. Keep social distancing. Be careful while the vaccine rolls out, and we really drive this thing out.

- According to one analysis I saw by The New York Times, we are actually the 11th best state in terms of delivering the vaccine, which is great news. However, I know people, including myself, who are just under that 65 age group, who are looking around, trying to figure out when are we going to get the vaccine. And there are a lot of people in this trying to figure out, well, does my underlying condition qualify? Help us out with that, because a lot of people are really wondering.

DAN HUFF: Yeah. Well, and I'm wondering myself, right? I'm waiting for my vaccine, so I'm there with you. The best thing you can do is to go to the Vaccine Connector.

- I've done that.

DAN HUFF: What I do for everything is I Google it, and I go to MN Vaccine Connector. And you just click through that, and as soon as a vaccine is available for you that meet those criteria, you'll be contacted. Now we have multiple--

- Have you started conta-- excuse me, have you started contacting people through the Vaccine Connector?

DAN HUFF: Absolutely.

- You have?

DAN HUFF: That's how people show up-- know to show up at our community vaccination sites.

- All right. I do want to ask you, I have a friend who is recovering from COVID. He had it more than a month ago. He's COVID-free, but he is having a hard time. I mean, he says he is not 100%. He's very tired. He's still suffering from some aftereffects. This seems to be the case for an awful lot of people who are recovering. Should those people get the vaccine? And how concerned are you about these long-term effects of COVID?

DAN HUFF: Yeah. Well first of all, I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I hope that they have a speedy recovery. It's one of the tricky things about COVID. It is a nasty, wily virus. And it has defied our understanding from the very beginning. We are concerned about these long-term effects. You've probably heard the term "long-haulers". But we're concerned about long-term heart issues that may arise down the road, as well as lung issues. So yes, we are very concerned about that.

To your second question, yes. Your friend should still get the vaccine. Everyone should get the vaccine when it becomes available for them.

- All right. And just as I said, you know, describing my friend, this is a tough guy who's in shape. He might be in his early 50s, but he's very healthy otherwise. Is that something that you're seeing pop up even with people who had-- were OK at first after they recovered, but then a couple of months down the road they're still having some symptoms?

DAN HUFF: Yeah. You know, it is-- it does seem pretty random. Some people get it, they seem to recover just fine and we haven't detected long-term impacts. Others of us really struggle. And we just-- you know, even though we have been talking about Coronavirus for over a year, there is a lot we do not know. Part of that is we just don't know how long those effects last, because we've only been in it for over a year.

- OK. In terms of the distribution of the vaccine, it seems to be going, as I said, really well. Eleventh best state, according to this survey that I saw. It sounds though like we're going to dramatically up the amount of vaccines that we're getting, which should improve things even more, right?

DAN HUFF: Yeah. So and, you know, I think this next week, I think we will have hit 2 million doses administered in Minnesota, which is huge to think about that many doses. We're getting more in our Pfizer, more in our Moderna allocation, and we're hoping to have our J&J allocation come in very shortly.

- OK. Well that is exciting. Yes, 24% of Minnesotans have gotten at least one of the vaccines, so that is hopeful. And I think the rest of us-- many of us are eagerly waiting. Assistant Commissioner, Dan Huff, thank you so much for your time. You folks at the Minnesota Department of Health have been so busy. We really appreciate it.

DAN HUFF: Thank you, and I hope everyone out there will be well.