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VA hospital nurse is first to receive COVID-19 shot in MN

MINNEAPOLIS — A nurse on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center was the first in Minnesota to receive a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.

Thera Witte, who works in a coronavirus unit at the hospital, said she feels honored to be the first and did not hesitate to volunteer.

“I’m feeling hopeful that this is the beginning of the end” of the pandemic, Witte said after receiving the first of two Pfizer doses. She will be vaccinated again in three weeks.

Thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine began arriving in Minnesota this week, with the VA hospital being the first recipient of 2,925 doses on Monday along with Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester and the Cass Lake Indian Health Service.

“Today is feels very real,” Gov. Tim Walz said at a news conference at the hospital Tuesday. “It’s our way out of this. It is one of the tools.”

The state anticipates that 46,800 Pfizer doses will be delivered this week to Minnesota hospitals and clinics, which will start administering them next week to health care workers at greatest risk of infection.

The coronavirus has caused at least 4,462 deaths and 381,841 known infections among Minnesotans and prompted Walz to shut down bars, restaurants, fitness centers and entertainment venues for four weeks to try to slow its spread.

Walz is expected on Wednesday to announce whether he will extend the order or let it expire as scheduled this Friday.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday reported 21 new deaths from COVID-19, as well as 2,340 newly reported positive cases.

So far, 4,483 people have died of the coronavirus in Minnesota and 2,928 fatalities have occurred in long-term care facilities.

To date, 19,785 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized in Minnesota and 4,286 patients have been in the ICU.