COVID vaccine sign

A sign directs drivers toward a Mall of America Community Vaccination Program Site.

While Carver and Scott Counties are seeing a moderate surge in COVID-19 case rates, public health officials say they hope getting children vaccinated will curb those numbers closer to zero.

As of Sunday, Carver County saw its third-highest weekly average of positive cases during the pandemic at 61.3 people. (The county’s biggest spike was about a year ago at 143.6 average weekly cases, followed by a weekly case average of 69.4 in April 2021.) Carver County’s COVID-related death count sits at 60, as of Monday’s county data.

Scott County’s seven-day case average was at 94 people on Sunday. It saw similar spikes in seven-day case averages as Carver County in November 2020 (221 cases) and April 2021 (78). So far, 163 people have died of COVID in Scott County since the pandemic began.

Scott County Public Health Director Lisa Brodsky said “unfortunately” the county is currently the second highest among metro counties for cumulative cases considering a per-10,000 capita rate.

“I’m not sure why that is,” she said. “But we continue to vaccinate.”

‘GET THE KIDS DONE’

The Scott County Public Health Department has given around 45,000 vaccinations, Brodsky said, and kicked off its vaccination clinics for children aged 5 to 11 within the past week.

“Our goal is to get the kids done, first and second dose, prior to winter break, because we know kids travel and go see their grandparents,” Brodsky said. “And (the vaccine slots) are filling up pretty quickly, so parents seem to be really motivated to get their children vaccinated. So that’s really nice to see.”

Despite an apparent hurry to get shots in young arms, Brodsky said it won’t be a mad rush like it was when vaccines were available to adults. Vaccinating children won’t happen immediately as providers gear up for the influx, Brodsky said.

In Carver County, Public Health Director Richard Scott said clinic sign-ups launched right after the CDC approved vaccines for children over 5. The county’s Nov. 9 and 16 clinics booked up quickly, he said.

“We are very proud of the work done by our team,” Scott said. “We know many families are anxious to get those 5- to 11-year-old kids vaccinated, so we encourage patience as we and other vaccine providers work through the delivery process … It will take a little time for all vaccinators to work through this.”

Both counties are initiating school-based clinics for students or children of school staff. Scott County began it on Tuesday; Carver County will follow suit during the last two weeks of November.

AN EXTRA BOOST

COVID booster shots are part of the picture now, too.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, all Minnesotans 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster at least two months after their first dose.

For those who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, the recommendations vary. The department says people who got those shots should get their boosters at least six months after their second dose — but only if they identify as the following: They should be 65 years old or older; live in a long-term care facility; are 50 to 64 years old with certain medical conditions; are 18 to 49 years old with certain medical conditions and are at high risk for severe COVID; or are 18 to 49 years old and have increased risk because of where they live or work, like in healthcare, correctional facilities, shelters or schools.

“We’re also encouraging those residents eligible for a booster shot to receive one,” Scott said. “All three vaccines received approval for booster shots for eligible people, as well as allowing people to ‘mix and match’ vaccines, meaning if you originally received the Johnson & Johnson shot, you can choose to have a Pfizer or Moderna booster.”

HOW MUCH LONGER?

The first first COVID case in the U.S. came over 600 days ago.

“So we’ve been dealing with this for quite a long time,” Brodsky said.

The game changer? Getting children vaccinated, she said, anticipating a big drop in cases as long as the vaccines continue to protect against mutations.

Even with the Delta variant, Brodsky said breakthrough cases, deaths and hospitalizations have dropped among the vaccinated.

“We’re really hoping to see it peter out soon. People just need to get vaccinated and still be diligent with their masking, washing their hands, social distancing. All those things are still in place,” Brodsky said. “We continue to fight the fight, and hopefully we’ll get in front of this soon.”

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