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Teens are focus in vaccination push

Gov. Tim Walz toured a Covid-19 testing site in Duluth last Thursday morning — one of more than a dozen community testing sites around the state.

He said officials were getting ready to announce an additional expansion of testing capacity around the state as hospitals deal with another surge in Covid cases that are filling up ICU beds. Officials announced last week that the state was opening its 14th testing facility in Morris on Tuesday.

“We’re going to massively expand our testing capacity across Minnesota again,” Walz vowed.

The governor also said the state will launch new incentives to get 12- to 17-year-olds vaccinated. On Monday he released the details.

Those age 12-17 who get both doses of the vaccine now and up to Nov. 30 will recieve a $200 Visa gift card on completion of the shot cycle. Registration for the gifts will open on Nov. 9.

There is also a scholarship drawing for all Minnesotans age 12-17 who have been vaccinated in 2021. The state is offering five $100,000 scholarship to Minnesota schools.

The Minnesota Department of Health is also seeking donations of services, products and unique experiences to offer as incentives to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

The incentives are being promoted to 12- to 17-year-olds who are already eligible to be vaccinated and to 5- to 11-year-olds, who Walz said he anticipates will become eligible the last week in October or the first week of November.

“That will start to relieve some of the pressure,’“ Walz said, before again urging Minnesotans to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so. He said 87 percent of Minnesotans hospitalized with Covid-19, and all 25 deaths reported last Thursday had not been inoculated against the virus.

“These are the most tested and used vaccines that we have seen. They were decades in the development of this. And to not do so not only puts you, your family [at risk], but it puts your community at risk.”

While Minnesota continues to slog through a difficult stretch of Covid-19, the most recent data offers fresh evidence that case counts, hospitalizations and community spread may be ebbing and that the summer-fall wave has peaked.

Known, active cases fell to 18,153 in Wednesday’s numbers, the lowest count in three weeks. The seven-day average of newly reported cases also fell to its lowest point since late September.

Hospitalizations continue to pull back from their recent highs.

Bed counts had topped 1,000 recently, putting huge pressure on the state’s short-staffed care systems, but hospitalizations dipped in reports posted Tuesday and Wednesday. There are 935 people in Minnesota hospitals now with Covid; 240 need intensive care.

State public health leaders continue to emphasize that Minnesota’s Covid numbers are still relatively high and the state is not out of the woods yet. They continue to plead with Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease and get vaccinated if eligible.

It’s “absolutely” possible the state may get hit with a fifth wave of Covid-19, Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said Monday.

Driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, the entire state now shows a high level of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Pine Knot News contributed to this story