MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As more students in Minnesota are slated to return to classrooms this week, health officials reported Sunday 996 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths.

The latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health puts the state’s cumulative coronavirus case count at 461,807 and the death toll at 6,200. Over the last two weeks, new case counts, daily death figures, and hospitalizations have all trended downward, even as restrictions have been lifted and young students have returned to classrooms in the Twin Cities metro.

The state’s slow-to-start vaccination rollout is continuing to ramp up. At latest count Saturday, 531,048 doses have been administered in Minnesota, mostly of the Pfizer vaccine. According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, 418,299 people have received their first dose while 111,715 people have received the full series.

Of the most recent deaths reported, seven of the victims were residents in long-term care facilities. People in this demographic have suffered more than 60% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. As such, they were among the first to receive the vaccine in recent weeks, along with frontline healthcare workers.

This week, more seniors were able to get vaccinated at nine community clinics across the state, and metro-area teachers and childcare workers were able to get their first dose at the state’s first mass vaccination clinic at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul.

In Minnesota hospitals, 450 people were battling the virus as of Thursday, with 95 people in intensive care beds. Hospitalizations in the state are down fourfold from record highs reached in late November/early December, where Gov. Tim Walz put tighter restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. Those restrictions lasted through the holidays and have since been lifted.

In the last 24 hours, more than 30,000 COVID-19 tests were processed in Minnesota, including more than 4,500 antigen tests. According to the state’s Dial Back Dashboard, the rolling seven-day average positivity rate is at 4.8% as of Jan. 20. The state currently has one of the lowest positivity rates in the country.

On WCCO Sunday Morning, the governor said that the way the state will beat the virus is through continued mask-wearing, social distancing and testing.

“Minnesotans are still doing the testing,” Walz said. “We caught the Brazilian P.1 variant very quickly, because we tested and we can contain it. That’s how you make sure this thing doesn’t spread.”

Since the start of the pandemic last March, more than 3.2 million people in Minnesota have been tested for the virus. Of those who’ve tested positive, 446,137 have recovered and no longer need to self-isolate.

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