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State to vaccinate 70% of seniors before expanding vaccine eligibility

ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz announced on Thursday that Minnesota will remain focused on vaccinating most of the state’s seniors before expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Walz issued guidance to vaccinate 70 percent of adults 65 years of age and older before expanding eligibility, aiming to reach this gol by the end of March.

As of Thursday, Minnesota has vaccinated more than 43 percent of Minnesotans aged 65 and over. Severe illness and death in long-term care settings have decreased since the vaccination of seniors began: deaths are down 97 percent from their November peak, and cases are down 89 percent, according to a press release from the Office of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

Nearly 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have come from those aged 65 and over.

“Older Minnesotans have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are focused on making sure they get vaccinated and keeping them safe,” Walz said. “These vaccines work — we can see that in the plummeting cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in long-term care facilities around our state. We will continue working with a robust network of providers to vaccinate all Minnesota seniors who need the most protection against COVID-19 right away.”

The Herald reached out to Mower County Health and Human Services to find out what percentage of Mower County seniors have been vaccinated so far. Community Health Division Manager Pam Kellogg said they were unable to get those numbers; however, the State is working on a dashboard for those numbers, which she said will be released soon.

Once 70 percent of the state’s seniors have received the vaccine, Minnesota will expand eligibility based on underlying health conditions and workplace exposure risk. Based on current projections, the next group of Minnesotans eligible for a vaccine will begin getting them in April, with the hope that every Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine by this summer.

Once the 70 percent senior goal is met, Minnesota will move forward with phases of vaccine eligibility as follows:

Early Spring – People with specific high-risk health conditions (sickle cell disease, Down Syndrome, active cancer treatment, immunocompromised from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions (COPD and CHF)) and targeted essential workers (food processing plant workers).

Late Spring (Phase 1) – People 45-64 with one or more high-risk medical conditions, people 16-44 with two or more high-risk medical conditions, essential frontline workers (agricultural, additional childcare workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, manufacturing, public transit, U.S. Postal Service Workers), and people aged 50 years or older in multi-generational housing.

Late Spring (Phase 2) – People aged 16 years or older with any underlying medical condition (such as chronic kidney disease, obesity, pregnancy and Type 2 diabetes) and people aged 50-64 (regardless of health condition).

Late Spring (Phase 3) – All other essential workers (transportation and logistics, finance. housing/shelter construction, IT/communications, energy, media, legal, public safety, water and wastewater).

Summer – General public