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HealthPartners: COVID hospitalizations driven by unvaccinated, middle aged Minnesotans

The health provider says the average age of its hospitalized patients is trending downwards.

HealthPartners has said the recent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in its Minnesota hospitals is being "driven largely by middle-aged adults who have not yet been vaccinated."

The healthcare provider and insurer says that so far in April, the average age of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is 57, compared to 65 during Minnesota's worst surge in November.

The average age of hospitalized patients has been trending younger statewide too, with the Minnesota Department of Health saying the current average in state hospitals is 59, compared to 69 in November/December.

That's because more than 85% of those aged 65 and over in Minnesota have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, whereas statewide only 53.3% of Minnesota adults have received a shot.

One shot of either the Pfizer and Moderna vaccination doesn't provide the full protection that is achieved two weeks after the second dose, and HealthPartners says that the recent hospital surge does include those who haven't been fully vaccinated, a reminder that Minnesotans should continue to make efforts to mitigate the chances of getting the virus.

But while cases and hospitalizations rose significantly between early March and mid April, the rise in deaths from COVID-19 was markedly smaller, suggesting that the vaccines are indeed succeeding at reducing deaths.

HealthPartners says that its current death rate of hospitalized COVID patients is about 2% in April, compared to 10-13% in the fall.

"During this latest surge, a majority of the COVID-19 patients we're caring for either haven't been vaccinated or haven't been fully vaccinated,” said Natalia Dorf-Biderman, MD, who works at HealthPartners' Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. 

"Although vaccination is a personal decision, not doing so can still put lives at risk, so I urge everyone in the community to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

HealthPartners said that the number of patients in its care system has more than tripled compared to four weeks ago. Statewide, there are 684 people hospitalized currently, compared to 223 on Mar. 7.

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