New cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday, Jan. 19, did not exceed single digits among any of the seven area counties and two saw no changes since the previous day.

Cass and Todd counties both reported zero new cases Tuesday, while Crow Wing County added seven, the highest number in the region. It’s one of the lowest single-day totals in Crow Wing since September and a dramatic difference from two months ago on Nov. 19, when the county reported its highest single-day case total recorded thus far with 123.

The positive trends are reflected in statewide data as well, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday. The weekly rate of new cases grew by 2.1%, she said, down about 4% from 10 days ago. The percentage of COVID-19 tests returning positive results, calculated on a seven-day rolling average, also declined from 7.5% to 5.4% over the last five days, Malcolm said.

The state reported six deaths Tuesday, none of which were in the seven-county region. Crow Wing County officials, however, said the numbers are expected to rise by four Wednesday to 77 total, including a man in his 40s, two women in their 80s and a woman in her 90s.

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About the vaccine

Seniors age 65 and older across the state scrambled to schedule one of just 6,000 vaccination appointments available through the Minnesota Department of Health Tuesday, while local health care organizations continued to shift planning efforts to accommodate the change in guidance allowing that population access to the vaccine.

Extremely high call and website volumes overwhelmed the appointment scheduling system shortly after it was made available to the public. According to a news release from the health department, more than 232,000 calls were processed through the call center as of 3:45 p.m., and at its peak, the website was processing more than 10,000 hits per second. As of 6 p.m., the website stated all appointments were filled for the week.

“What we are seeing is extraordinarily pent-up demand for vaccine. Nearly 1 million Minnesotans age 65 and over are trying to get a few thousand doses of vaccines that have been made available to Minnesota,” stated Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director, in the release. “We recognize many Minnesotans waited a long time today and we thank them for their patience. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around the fact there will be frustrations as we continue to deal with the extreme supply shortage.”

Essentia Health will provide a COVID-19 vaccine update during an hour-long webinar starting at noon Friday, Jan. 22. This is a chance to learn about the current status of vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in the area, the organization stated.

The prevalence of COVID-19 across the region, current trends and new variants, the vaccine distribution process, how to register for the vaccine, and the safety and effectiveness of vaccines will be discussed via Zoom at https://tinyurl.com/EssentiaCOVIDUpdate.

The webinar will begin with brief presentations from Dr. Peter Henry, chief medical officer; Dr. Amanda Noska, infectious disease physician; Dr. Richard Vetter, chief medical officer for Essentia’s West Market; Dr. Sarah Manney, chief medical information officer; and Roseann Hines, senior operations manager of medication use management.

The second half of the webinar will feature a question-and-answer session. Following the webinar, the video will be posted to Essentia Health’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Additional information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine can be found by visiting EssentiaHealth.org and clicking on the “vaccine distribution” link at the top of the page.

COVID-19 data as of Jan. 15

  • Aitkin — 1,084, with 33 deaths.

  • Cass — 2,076, with 23 deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 4,827, with 77 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 2,142, with 45 deaths.

  • Morrison — 3,117, with 43 deaths.

  • Todd — 2,317, with 29 deaths.

  • Wadena — 1,201, with 14 deaths.

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21, 2020, and many are out of isolation.