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Boosters still protect against coronavirus variants, new Minnesota health data shows

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Boosters still protect against coronavirus variants, new Minnesota health data shows

Timely booster doses of coronavirus vaccine continue to protect Minnesotans from severe illness and death, even as new strains of the virus emerge, according to new data released Monday by the Department of Health.

People 65 and older benefit the most, breakthrough data from the last 60 days shows. Among seniors who got COVID-19, the unvaccinated have been more than four times as likely to die and nearly five times as likely to need hospital care compared to their boosted peers.

Getting the initial shots of vaccine without boosters provides some protection, but as the coronavirus mutates into new strains, that initial protection is not as strong as it was when vaccination began in December 2020. The latest data is the first time state health officials have provided specific information showing the increased protection from additional COVID-19 shots.

“We are still seeing a substantial benefit in the 65 and up category with boosters,” said Stephanie Meyer, epidemiologist supervisor at the health department. But she noted there were still a lot of questions about how the timing of booster shots and different coronavirus variants impacts vaccine protection.

Variations of the omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, have dominated Minnesota infections since mid-December. The latest breakthrough data shows the various omicron variants are having better success infecting the vaccinated and are more likely to cause severe disease than some of the previous strains.

However, other factors also are at play, most notably patients’ underlying health conditions that may put them at higher risk. In recent months, Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths again have been concentrated among older residents who tend to have other medical conditions.

“The comorbidity piece is something we cannot account for in these data. It is a really important factor,” said Keely Morris, senior epidemiologist. She noted that federal data continues to show vaccines offer protection to people who are high-risk because of other health conditions.

Morris also added that as more people get vaccinated, the share of new cases that affect vaccinated people is expected to climb. About 67 percent of the state’s 5.7 million residents have gotten their initial doses of vaccine, but only about 46 percent are up-to-date on their shots.

Meyer and Morris said state health officials continue to study breakthrough cases and the impact of vaccines and the timing of boosters.

CASES LEVEL OFF

There was some evidence released Monday that Minnesota’s latest spike in cases, driven by four different omicron sub-variants, may have stalled. The 2,152 new cases reported from last Friday is a week-over-week decline of about 11 percent.

However, case counts offer an increasingly limited view of the state’s outbreak because more people test at home and those results are not reported to the state. Health officials more closely watch hospitalization data and the prevalence of coronavirus genetic material in wastewater.

And last week, the Metropolitan Council reported a 58 percent increase in coronavirus DNA in Twin Cities sewage. The data was from the week ending May 16 and suggests cases could continue to rise.

Rates of hospitalization and death have ticked up in recent weeks but remain much lower than the state’s last big winter surge.

There are 422 patients hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, including 36 in intensive care. Critical cases have remained relatively flat as overall hospitalizations have fluctuated.

Another nine COVID-19 deaths also were reported Monday. They ranged in age from their early 60s to their 90s with six residing in private homes and three in long-term care.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 12,596 Minnesotans are known to have died from COVID-19. About 82 percent were seniors and about 46 percent residents of long-term care.

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Minnesota United gives away late lead in Miami

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Minnesota United gives away late lead in Miami

For so much of the second half, Minnesota looked comfortable and ready to take a much-needed victory.

Shockingly, Inter Miami, the second-worst goal-scoring team in MLS notched two goals in the final three minutes to flip the script and take a 2-1 victory in the first MLS meeting between the two teams.

“[We] put ourselves in a great spot,” manager Adrian Heath said. “Put ourselves in a really good position. We’re not doing enough, it doesn’t look as though it’s enough to concede goals and lose games.”

Inter Miami forward Indiana Vassilev only made it into the game as a late-game bench substitution, but he made the most of his opportunity scoring in the 87th and 90th minute to give his team a victory, surpassing Minnesota’s one-goal lead it held since the 65th minute.

The Loons’ defense had kept Minnesota in the game for each chance Inter Miami had for the first 86 minutes, but the team couldn’t get the stops near the end to come up with the victory.

“At those times of the game, you need to do whatever you can to just beat your man,” Loons defender Michael Boxall said.

Minnesota’s victory looked nearly locked up as the Loons held the 1-0 difference into the final five minutes of the game. That goal followed a resilient start to the second half after many chances weren’t finished.

The Minnesota goal scorer was Luis Amarilla, who put the ball past the Inter Miami goalkeeper in tight in the 65th minute. It was his first goal in MLS play since March 19.

Amarilla was in such a position to score the goal so close to the keeper because of an acrobatic one-touch centering pass from Franco Fragapane. The play all began from Emmanuel Reynoso getting the ball on the right side of the attacking zone. He cut towards the middle and sent a lofting kick that found the airborne Fragapane for his assist.

While Minnesota finally found the back of the net in the back half of the game, there was no shortage of missed opportunities earlier in the contest.

“We’re not good enough at one end, and we’re not good enough at the other, and that’s not a good recipe,” Heath said. “We’ve got to get more and more determination to get on the things in the box and we’ve certainly got to defend the goal better.”

By the end of the game, Inter Miami had eight shots on target, while Minnesota had just one, the Amarilla goal.

The loss marks the first since Minnesota announced Heath’s two-year contract extension through 2024 on Thursday. The defeat also adds to a 1-6-1 stretch over the Loons’ last eight games, including Saturday night.

Heath said on Wednesday that the goal was to come away with four points in this road trip at Inter Miami on Saturday and on Wednesday at L.A. Galaxy. With the loss to Inter Miami, that goal is no longer possible.

The Loons must keep looking forward to get back on track and into playoff contention. After the loss on Saturday, Minnesota sits 11th in the Western Conference Standings, five points outside of the seventh spot, the cutoff for the playoffs.

“The good thing is that it’s a quick turnaround,” Boxall said. “Not quite looking ahead to L.A. just yet, we still need to process this game and figure out what we need to address, because that should be three points we’re taking home tonight.”

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

Puffy white clouds filled the blue skies above Target Field and sunlight bounced off buildings that make up the Minneapolis skyline. It was the kind of summer night at the ballpark that Minnesotans dream about throughout the long winter months.

It was the perfect night at Target Field and the hometown team, well, they were nearly perfect, too. Twins pitchers gave up just one hit (and five walks), and the team captured a first-inning lead on its way to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Target Field.

A day after getting shut out for the 10th time this season, tying the league lead, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton made sure early on that the Twins wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Arraez snapped an 0-for-11 stretch to begin the game and Buxton, back in the lineup for the first time since Tuesday, followed that up with his first triple since 2019.

After missing time this week after his knee flared up, Buxton turned on the burners, with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet/second (30 ft/sec is elite) on the triple, losing his helmet along the way. When he reached the base, he pounded his chest a couple times, smacked his hands together and let out a roar.

While the Twins left Buxton on third, they added on throughout the game, tacking on a run in the second on Arraez’s second hit of the game, two more in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Alex Kirilloff drove in three of those runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other on a double off the right field wall, bringing home Max Kepler — who walked three times in the game — and Kyle Garlick. The double was his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A.

All that offense came in support of Chris Archer, who worked five innings and allowed just one hit — a single to former Twin C.J. Cron in the second inning — and a walk in his outing.  Archer pitched out of that second-inning jam, retiring the next three batters in a row, the first of 12 straight that he sent down to conclude his start.

His start was followed by a scoreless inning each from Jharel Cotton and Griffin Jax and two from Tyler Thornburg. Twins pitchers have now thrown two shutouts in their past three games, and in Friday’s loss, they gave up just one run.

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

1858: Joseph Israel Lobdell, born Lucy Lobdell, is arrested for “impersonating a man.” A judge in the rural camp community of Forest City, Minn., sided with Lobdell, ruling that he did not act unlawfully.

1877: Minneapolis rules crossdressing as illegal, putting gender-nonconforming Minnesotans at risk for imprisonment.

1969: The Stonewall riots begin in New York City after police raids occur in the gay-friendly bars and community spaces of Lower Manhattan. These riots serve as a public turning point in American LGBTQ+ history.

May 18, 1969: University of Minnesota alumni found Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, or FREE, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the state. Founders Jack Baker and Michael McConnell become the first same-sex couple in the nation to apply for a marriage license, an application that is rejected by Hennepin County. Their legal case is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in one sentence.

1972: The first Twin Cities Pride celebration is held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Dec. 9, 1972: Minnesota state Sen. Allan Henry Spear indicates he is gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star, making him the first openly gay state legislator in the United States.

June 1982: Bruce Brockway becomes the first documented recipient of an HIV diagnosis in Minnesota. After his diagnosis, he founded the Minnesota AIDS Project to provide resources to HIV-positive Minnesotans.

1993: Gender- and sexuality-based discrimination is outlawed in Minnesota, making it the first state in the nation to adopt the policy.

1997: Sicaŋgu Lakota man Nicholas Metcalf and his partner, Korean-American Edd Lee, found the Minnesota Men of Color, an organization that focuses on the well-being of men, women and gender-nonconforming people of color.

2012: Amendment 1, which limits marriage rights to only heterosexual couples, is rejected by the majority of Minnesota voters. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court releases a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in any state and must be recognized nationally. Gay marriage is legalized.

June 25-26, 2022: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the Twin Cities Pride parade and festival returns to Minneapolis.

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