The COVID-19 pandemic presence in Minnesota continues to recede, as cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, as did distributed vaccine doses.

The state reported 79 new cases, the third day with average daily cases remaining under 100. The Health Department also reported no new deaths associated with the coronavirus Tuesday.

The trend of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota remained under a 100-per-day average Tuesday after reaching the milestone over the weekend.

That's down from nearly 500 cases a day a month ago, more than 1,600 a day two months ago — and more than 7,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic last November.

The seven-day average for vaccinations remains just over 10,000 shots per day. At the current pace, it will be mid-August before the state reaches its goal of getting at least one shot into 70 percent of residents 16 and older, which officials had initially hoped would happen by early July. Wide gaps remain between age groups and regions.

As cases continue their downward trend this week, Minnesota is winding down its operations at six state-run COVID-19 testing sites.

The community testing sites in Albert Lea, Crookston and Wadena are set to close on Tuesday. The state plans to close more COVID-19 testing sites later this week. Sites in Chisholm, Hutchinson and Morris will stop testing on Wednesday. That follows the closure of three others in the Twin Cities last week.

Seven state-run sites will remain open. The sites in St. Cloud, Duluth, Brooklyn Park, Mankato, Moorhead and Winona, and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will all operate most weekdays.

Free testing also remains available at pharmacies, clinics and other regional locations.

State officials say they've seen a decrease in demand for testing. The rate of tests coming back positive has fallen below 1 percent, mirroring statistics only seen in April 2020, when testing capacity and availability were scarce.

Pandemic metrics hover near April 2020 lows

Known, active COVID-19 cases in Minnesota dropped to 780 in Tuesday’s data, staying below 1,000 for the ninth consecutive reporting day. It’s part of a stunning drop since May 1, when Minnesota had more than 15,000 active cases.

Receding caseloads mean fewer hospitalizations. As of Tuesday, the Health Department reported 97 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota. Monday was the first time hospitalizations have been fewer than 100 since the health department started recording this data a year ago.

Of those hospitalized, 23 needed an intensive care unit bed. ICU admissions are at their lowest since March 2020.

Minnesota’s pandemic toll remained at 7,587. Among those who have died, about 59 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

The state has recorded 605,297 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 79 posted Tuesday.

About 99 percent of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to isolate.

People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — about 112,000 since the pandemic began.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry they can spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations.

Vaccination pace crawls

Almost 3 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose. About 2.8 million are completely vaccinated. That’s about 63 percent completely vaccinated and close to 67 percent with at least one shot, including 90 percent of people 65 and older.

Add in the nearly 105,400 12-to-15-year-olds with at least one dose and Minnesota has topped 3 million residents with one or more shots. More than half the state’s total population is now completely vaccinated.

The vaccination pace, however, is sputtering — now barely averaging 10,000 shots a day. That average had exceeded 60,000 a day at the peak in April.

Minnesota’s also seeing big regional gaps in vaccination rates, with most counties outside the Twin Cities region still below 70 percent of adults vaccinated.

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