There are currently 19 COVID-19 cases per 100 thousand people and 93 patients in the ICU, the highest seen in two months, reports Kate Raddatz (2:29). WCCO 4 News - March 24, 2021
FRANK VASCELLARO: Good evening. Thanks for joining us as we stream live on CBSN Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health says we're making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but we're not out of the woods. Cases are growing, according to the latest numbers. The seven day positivity rate is now at 4.6%. There are almost 19 cases per 100,000 people, and there are 93 patients in the ICU. All these numbers are the highest we've seen in two months. It appears more contagious variants are playing a role.
Kate Raddatz shows us why health officials say letting our guard down now could prevent us from reaching the finish line.
KATE RADDATZ: Earlier this month, the focus of the B117 variant, first found in the UK, was here in Carver County. But in the state's latest sampling batch of positive COVID tests, they identified 479 infections of that more contagious variant.
KRIS EHRESMANN: We are seeing variants circulating across the state.
KATE RADDATZ: The state has made considerable progress in vaccinating the most vulnerable, but health officials are concerned that people are letting their guard down with other protective measures, as the more contagious variants spread.
KRIS EHRESMANN: Our positivity, that is starting to increase. We're starting to see our case rate increase. So all of those things concern us.
KATE RADDATZ: Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease expert Kris Ehresmann says vaccine manufacturers are currently looking at the effectiveness of their shots against known variants that didn't exist during the Pfizer and Moderna trials. However, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was tested in places where variants were already circulating.
KRIS EHRESMANN: We can't say, oh, the vaccine is X% effective against the certain variants.
KATE RADDATZ: Minnesota has also seen 108 cases of two newer variants that were first detected in California. There have been six known cases in the state of the variant that was first detected in South Africa, and two of the P1, first found in Brazil. Ehresmann says the biggest reason people still need to take precautions and get their vaccine is to prevent the disease from mutating further, and potentially to a more dangerous type.
KRIS EHRESMANN: This virus has knocked our globe on its heels, and we need to take it seriously.
KATE RADDATZ: Kate Raddatz, WCCO 4 News.
FRANK VASCELLARO: The state currently samples up to 500 random COVID tests each week to test for any variant, in addition to testing those areas that have rapid case growth. Soon, though, they anticipate testing 1,500 samples a week.