More than a dozen YMCAs across the greater Twin Cities will host free COVID-19 vaccine events in the weeks ahead.
During specific times, anyone age 12 and up will be able to get the Pfizer COVID vaccine at no cost, at either a scheduled appointment (which people can do here) or simply by walking in, the governor's office announced Monday. A person can get their first or second dose at one of the free clinics. Minors must have permission from a parent or guardian.
“The YMCA is honored to serve as a community hub in efforts such as these free clinics to advance wellbeing for all,” said Glen Gunderson, president and CEO of the YMCA of the North, in the announcement.
Both Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov Peggy Flanagan urged unvaccinated families to get the shot, highlighting the upcoming school year.
"We all want to keep our kids and families safe heading back into fall and the school year — and that means getting as many of us vaccinated as possible,” Flanagan said. “I am grateful to the YMCA of the North for their partnership and working with us to keep Minnesotans healthy and our communities strong. To all the families with children 12 years of age and older who still need to get their COVID-19 vaccine: don’t miss this opportunity right at your local YMCA."
The opening days of school are coming as the state — and country — face an increase in COVID-19 cases among children, a stark difference from the early months of the pandemic. Those under 12 are not currently eligible for any of the vaccines.
State health officials, during an Aug. 27 media call, highlighted this worrying trend, with Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm calling it "particularly alarming" that the state's rate of new cases is twice as high as it was in August of 2020.
"Cases are increasing, especially in places people are gathering," she said, noting the department recorded 324 cases in the past week from schools, camps and child care, a nearly 50% jump from the previous week.
"We were seeing about .7 percent of the cases in children being hospitalized [last fall], and now we're seeing that at 1.5 percent," said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann during the call. "That is still a low number, but that is a doubling of what we saw last fall and that is definitely concerning."
Malcolm also cited the outbreak in Albert Lea, where the district recommended but did not require face masks. One week into the school year, they had 36 students test positive for COVID, prompting quarantine for nearly 300 of their classmates.
The state, no longer under a peacetime emergency, cannot currently mandate mask policies. Individual school districts and school leaders are all crafting their own COVID policy.