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FEMA to aid with monoclonal treatments in Minnesota

Hospitalizations continue to climb, but key metrics of community spread risk are slowly dropping.

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ST. PAUL — A federal medical team will help Minnesota in its efforts to expand access to monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 and aid in administering vaccines in the state, health officials announced Wednesday, Dec. 1.

A team of 16 personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will aid in expanding the availability of monoclonal antibody treatments in central Minnesota and help staff the vaccination site at the Mall of America, said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Minnesota Department of Health's infectious disease prevention division.

Health care providers in Minnesota will prioritize patients who need monoclonal antibody treatment the most, including patients who are severely ill with COVID-19 and those at greatest risk for developing severe illness, Ehresmann said.

Since the beginning of October, Minnesota has been administering about 2,000 doses of monoclonal antibody treatment a week, according to state health officials. The treatment is an infusion or injection of laboratory-made molecules that mimic a natural immune system response to infection.

"We're working to ensure every Minnesotan in every community had fair and equitable access to monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatment," Ehresmann said. "However, due to high rates of COVID-19, demand for these treatments continues to outpace the supply of healthcare workers who can provide them."

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Health care providers have been ramping up access to treatment in recent weeks, Ehresmann said, noting that providers in Minnesota had administered more than 3,000 doses in the week ending Nov. 24.

While access to the treatment has expanded in recent weeks, Ehresmann said it is no substitute for standard precautions against the virus.

"It should be noted right off the bat that monoclonal antibodies are not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19," she said. "Vaccination remains our strongest tool for preventing COVID and preventing severe illness."

More information on signing up for treatment can be found online through the Minnesota Resource Allocation Platform: www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/meds.html.

Hospitalizations remain high

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Minnesota again reached record highs for 2021, according to figures released Wednesday by the state health department.

While daily cases and weekly metrics showing the risk of community spread remained high in Wednesday's update, the seven-day rolling average of new cases per 100,000 and test positivity rates for the same period offered an encouraging sign that the fourth wave of infections could be leveling out.

As of Nov. 23, the most recently available data for weekly public health risk measures, the seven-day rolling average of new cases per 100,000 people was 75.2. While that average remains well above the threshold for high risk of community transmission set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 10 per 100,000, it marks the second day in a row that the number has decreased from a high of 77.1 reached on Nov. 20.

Positive test rates are also dropping after breaking into the high-risk category of 10% or higher earlier this month. After peaking at 11% in mid-November and holding at that level for several days, the positive test rate has now slowly started to drop. As of Nov. 23, the rate was 10.4% and had been falling from the peak of 11% for almost a week.

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MDH reported 100 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, however, the figure was the result of backlog from the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend. The state reported zero new deaths on Tuesday.

Following are Minnesota's COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Wednesday. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 3,580
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE OF NEW CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 75.2 (as of 11/23)

  • TOTAL CASES, INCLUDING REINFECTIONS: 915,942
  • TOTAL REINFECTIONS: 10,427
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE TEST POSITIVITY RATE: 10.4 (as of 11/23)

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 1,562

  • TOTAL HOSPITALIZATIONS: 46,177

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED: 100

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 9,482

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 3,651,596 or 70.1% of ages 5 and up

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 doses): 3,365,496 or 64.6% of ages 5 and up

  • BOOSTER DOSES ADMINISTERED: 1,114,287

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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