Mar 9, 2021
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Press Conference Transcript March 9
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz held a press conference on March 9, 2021. He provided updates on COVID-19 and vaccine distribution. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Governor Tim Walz : (04:54)
Good morning, everyone. Good morning, Minnesota. It’s a beautiful, almost amazingly beautiful spring day and I think it matches the information we have today that things are going in a direction that we had hoped. Minnesotans are doing everything is being asked of them and is making a difference.
Governor Tim Walz : (05:13)
Today you’re going to hear from some of the usual folks, Commissioner Malcolm, you’ve seen Commissioner Grove here from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, but you’re also going to hear from a few more folks that go in line with what we’re announcing today. Rodolfo Gutierrez is going to talk a little bit about impact on the communities that are going to come up next in the vaccination line and then, of course, Commissioner Peterson.
Governor Tim Walz : (05:38)
I was mentioning, it’s been quite a while since we’ve been in the same room together and I never forget for a single day, the talented folks we have serving the state and Commissioner Peterson, serving that sector that is critical to Minnesota, the agricultural sector, spanning every corner of the state and economically critical to our state. So exciting time.
Governor Tim Walz : (06:02)
Well, Minnesotans we set up now in this vaccination process and we talked to you in December that a plan had been put in place. We were one of those pilot states that the federal government looked at to build a deep enriched ecosystem to get out vaccines as they, first of all, were very scarce and demand was incredibly high, which it still is. But as the supply continued to come in, would we have the capacity to move those as quickly as possible? And the answer is yes. And that is a lot of thanks to the Minnesota Department of Health, but a lot of our private partners, our nonprofits, our clinics, our pharmacies, local public health, all of those folks who made that possible has sped Minnesota along in this process, you get as many people vaccinated as possible. And I feel a real sense of urgency around this.
Governor Tim Walz : (06:49)
I want to be very clear as you’re hearing from the CDC, as you’re hearing from folks like Dr. Osterholm, of course, Commissioner Malcolm, the variants are a concern that’s out there and it feels like a race to get folks vaccinated and tamped down the variants at the same time to reduce the impact that they will have. And so the ability of what we’re able to announce today, as we stand here today, Minnesota will surpass the 70% of our seniors age 65 and above vaccinated.
Governor Tim Walz : (07:15)
That’s that entire universe. And this is where I want to give a thank you to Minnesotans are uptake, meaning people who want to and are willing to take the vaccine to protect not only their health, but public health, is incredibly high. Because there are some reports out there that that show resistance of taking vaccines in some groups of folks is a above 20 or 30%. at this point in time that fast Wayne in our highway of seniors going is still running and we have 70%.
Governor Tim Walz : (07:42)
And I want to stress that lane remains open and our commitment to getting to a 100%, if 100% want to get this, and I encourage you to do so, you are still prioritized to get that. That lane that got all of our healthcare folks, that’s still open, even though we’re pretty well done. Long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities, those are still going, but pretty well done. And then of course our educators who are a part of this to get back and get to that number where we have over 90% of our students doing some form of in-person learning and that is moving up every day. So those lanes are moving incredibly quickly. We’ve reached that, which means we’re at the point where before the Johnson & Johnson, and several weeks ago, the numbers looked like we would be done the end of March 1st, week of April. Well, now we can accelerate. And that was our hope.
Governor Tim Walz : (08:28)
So our announcement today is to speed up that, this robust ecosystem allows us to do that. We’ve made tremendous strides and we’ll continue to do so, but today we’re going to expand that eligibility.
Governor Tim Walz : (08:40)
The groups will be explained by Commissioner Malcolm. You’ve seen them already those with very serious underlying health condition, regardless of age, those five groups that will be put on there. And then of course our food processing sector that is unique in that it contains a number of folks in bi-pod communities that have been underserved or in multi-generational homes and it’s an absolute linchpin to both our economy and food security for not just Minnesota, but for the country. So those will come on board.
Governor Tim Walz : (09:08)
And then I think as we’re seeing this, as these lanes are going, it makes sense that that universe of folks to be vaccinated is relatively small, somewhere around 80,000. We’ll be announcing a much larger group. We’ll start to get in line now, too. And that’s that basically 1.1 million Minnesotans age 45 to 64 with two underlying health conditions… Or excuse me, one underlying health condition. And then those younger than that with two underlying health conditions, and then some of the sectors you’ll hear Commissioner Grove talk about.
Governor Tim Walz : (09:41)
This is good news, Minnesota. There is still a much higher demand than there is a supply, but the supply is increasing every week. We’ve seen a little low in the J& J this week because they didn’t have a lot on hand, but that is ramping up our anticipation from the federal government, again, and we conservatively what they tell us three weeks out, puts us in a position to start moving quickly through this very large group. And just to be clear, Commissioner [Pallecom 00:10:06] probably has the more data on this. This will get us basically above 99 plus percent of the folks who have serious illness from this who were hospitalized in this group.
Governor Tim Walz : (10:16)
Now this one’s going to take some weeks obviously to get through, because again, it’s, as I said, above one million people, but the pace and the ability to move these vaccines, basically 90% of them within 72 hours of when they hit Minnesota and the vast network of where you can get these should really increase that.
Governor Tim Walz : (10:34)
So The Connector is still your site, sign up. And those of you who are saying, and I have in-laws and things telling me that they’ve been vaccinated, but they’re getting notified by their local clinic or their local pharmacy that they have vaccines available that shows the system is working. There’re redundancies built into this. It’s making sure no one falls through the cracks and it’s making sure now that we’re starting to hear that, that our providers are reaching down further and further into the groups.
Governor Tim Walz : (11:00)
And what we don’t want to have happen is, we don’t want to and not get this thing going and start from a full stop. We want to make sure we’re merging onto that freeway of lanes that we continue to ramp those up so that we don’t have folks setting on vaccines. But I want to be very clear, the seniors yet un-vaccinated you are still the top priority and the availability and your providers and your pharmacy and the state sites are still available to you. Those educators who want the vaccine and haven’t yet got it, you’re still the priority. So when you go into these lanes, nothing changes for you in terms of how we prioritize you, but it allows some of the flexibility. And the commissioner will talk about this for providers and others to reach down, to make sure we’re not setting in waiting. So this is exciting. And for those of you and commissioner can talk more about this. I have to tell you, I was watching the CDC, Dr. Walensky’s presentation yesterday about some of the changes, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see the two green dot thing, and then the other dots, and then show that happy family group together.
Governor Tim Walz : (12:02)
I called my mom today, who she has just received her second shot. And this will be her first opportunity. We’re planning, maybe Easter, somewhere in there where now those family members and those grandparents who are vaccinated can gather with their grandchildren in the social setting without masking is what the CDC put out. So to Minnesotans it’s finally here, we are really on the cusp of this thing.
Governor Tim Walz : (12:25)
Jan, I know Commissioner Malcolm will do this and others will do it, but I have to stress. Now’s not the time to let down our guard on the basic things, keep the masks on, keep social distance, start planning. And I think it’s appropriate that you’re going to be able to do an awful lot of stuff come this summer. And we’ll start putting out more guidance Commissioner Grove will talk a little bit about that, but this is a good day, Minnesotans.
Governor Tim Walz : (12:44)
We’re ready now to expand to the next group of folks. The new lane is added to the highway and it’s going to mean a whole lot of you out there are now going to hopefully, on The Connector, if you’re not already there, get on right now. It’s not a lottery and it’s not the first come first serve. It’s a way to connect you to this vast ecosystem of where vaccines are available and get you in as quickly as possible. So you too can start visiting, start gathering again, and basically start doing the things that we’ve so missed over the last year.
Governor Tim Walz : (13:10)
And with that to fill in all of the details for you, Commissioner Malcolm.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (13:24)
Thank you, Governor. Good morning, everyone. Well, it is a very good day as the governor has said.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (13:29)
This week, we’re going to expand vaccine eligibility to two new groups of Minnesotans. We’re moving so quickly that we can now announce two groups at the same time. And that is, as the governor has said intended to create more flexibility for our providers to be able to get shots in arms as quickly as possible. And as the governor said, providers have been reminded to prioritize those groups currently eligible as well.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (13:56)
But with these two new phases, we’ve asked providers to prioritize vaccine appointments for people in the first phase first, and Minnesotans in the second phase, while they’re going to proceed largely in parallel, the groups in the second phase should expect to wait for messages from the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector as the governor mentioned, or their employer or their provider to find out when they are able to start getting scheduled to get the vaccine.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (14:23)
So to further clarify, this first phase includes people with specific underlying health conditions that put them at particular risk that is sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, those in active cancer treatment, or who are immunocompromised specifically from solid organ transplant, and those who are specifically oxygen dependent, chronic lung and heart conditions, so that’s a pretty specific list of groups who are in this very next phase.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (14:53)
This first phase also includes targeted essential workers, specifically food processing plant workers, which is where we saw such a significant outbreak potential in the spring. So these Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness are also included in this first tier.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (15:17)
Last week, when we rolled out the basic framework, we talked about the fact that the CDC has these lists of conditions that are associated with higher risk because there are large enough groups of people with these conditions to have data on the effects of those conditions and COVID. The CDC, and we also, have called out to providers that there are people with more rare conditions, certain disabilities and rare conditions that specifically put them at higher risk of complications from COVID. And we want to give providers the flexibility to immunize folks with those more rare conditions too where there aren’t enough numbers of people to create that database that the CDC has used.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (16:01)
So those groups, the specific underlying health conditions, the very rare conditions, and specific disabilities that put people at higher risk and food processing plant workers are in this next phase. And these groups are going to have the first priority when scheduling appointments.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (16:19)
The second phase, which is going to proceed sort of in that lane right next to the first, as the governor has said, the second phase includes people 45 or over with one or more of the underlying health conditions identified by the CDC. So they have a longer list than that first list, which includes a greater range of immunocompromised status, a greater range of cardiac and pulmonary conditions, for example, pregnancy, obesity. So that CDC list is on our website and on the CDC website.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (16:52)
As well, people 45 or over again with one or more underlying conditions and people of any age who are vaccine eligible, so down to 16…
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (17:03)
And people of any age who are vaccine eligible. So down to 16, with two or more of those underlying health conditions. As well, people 50 or over in multi-generational housing, and then in the second concurrent group is an expanded set of essential frontline workers. Those frontline worker categories as designated by the federal government. That meaning agricultural, airport staff, additional childcare workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail and food service, as well as judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, and the US postal service. So that’s a broad group of essential work sectors in that next concurrent group.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (17:47)
Just another couple of words about underlying health conditions. As you’ve heard us talk about from the beginning, our goal in the [Wallace Flanning 00:17:54] administration has been to immunize for impact first. That means vaccinating people most at risk of serious illness and death if they contract COVID-19. Part of that strategy has meant, and will continue to mean vaccinating our 65 plus population, which has seen nearly 90% of all the deaths during this pandemic. But it also means providing these critical life saving vaccines to Minnesotans who have these underlying health conditions that put them at heightened risk for serious illness. And we are following federal guidance in these decisions. The Centers for Disease Control, as mentioned, has analyzed the data, has published a specific list of conditions shown to put adults at increased risk.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (18:36)
In Minnesota, we are prioritizing from the conditions on that list, as well as additional recommendations from Minnesota’s health care providers. The list is based on our best current information and research into conditions that are known to put people at increased risk for severe disease. As always, we are relying on science and medical evidence. As we expand eligibility in the weeks ahead, it’s vital that we offer vaccines first to those Minnesotans at greatest risk. That’s why even as we increase the number of Minnesotans who are eligible for a shot now, we are explicitly instructing providers to prioritize vaccine appointments for those Minnesotans with conditions that put them at the greatest risk first.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm: (19:18)
We still don’t have enough doses to provide a shot to everyone who wants one on demand right now, on day one. And we do ask Minnesotans to continue to be patient, to know now that you have a place in the line, and that the line is moving much more quickly. But to please remain patient as we provide vaccines to those who need it most urgently right away. And again, another plug for the connector. It’s a great way to make sure that you will get the information pushed out to you as soon as you are in an eligible category as to where and when and how you can expect to get the vaccine. With that, I’m very pleased to introduce Rodolfo Gutierrez, executive director of HACER.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (20:14)
[foreign language 00:20:14] Hello everyone. Good morning. Sorry, starting in Spanish. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, commissioners. Commissioner Malcolm, thanks so much. It’s a real honor to be here and learning about the really good news. We at HACER, we are an organization that works as a COVID 19 community coordinator with MDH, and we are in touch directly with the Latino community in Minnesota, trying to connect them with the resources available for them. From housing, to unemployment, to access to vaccinations, and also testing. Whatever they need, they are going to call us through a hotline we are having in place that is working seven days of the week for people to call us.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (21:03)
We are, also because of that, recognizing several priorities among our population. We know because we are a research organization, that in the state there are around 330,000 people of Latino origin, as today. And we don’t know exactly what it’s the number of undocumented population. There are estimates that are going from 80,000 to 110,000. In the most conservative ones say there are 50,000. Regardless of the number, what’s important is that today we received the good news that one of the sectors that embraces a lot of undocumented workers, the meatpacking industry, is being considered part of the next stage in the vaccination process. And this is really important because among the several calls we receive, workers that are in the meat packing industry, meat packers themselves, are being infected without letting us know that they are. Because they are in fear. They are afraid of losing their jobs at any moment if they just tell people that they are infected. And then they are not even coming to the testing sites because of the very same reason. They are afraid of once they are known as having the virus, they are going to be fired.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (22:18)
And that had happened, actually. Not in the 33 major industries or names you can list like [inaudible 00:22:26] or NAO, or Cargill, but in the small ones that are subsidiaries of the big ones, they are hiring mostly undocumented people and they are not necessarily offering them the entire corporation services and benefits that the law provides to every single worker. Because of that, they are also hiding. So they are behind the the lines. They are not coming to request for services when they need it. They don’t come to the doctor, or they don’t come anywhere. They are just halt, and I try to navigate the best way possible how they are dealing with the virus.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (23:05)
So just learning today that the meatpacking industry is going to be included in this new group is really something that show us that it’s possible to consider those people who are hiding, and we need to think about them. But also want to highlight that several people who are on different conditions that are a little bit older than the average population of Latino origin in Minnesota are in very much need as well. So including them in the second group also is something that makes me feel happy and hopeful that things are going to be changing for them very soon. We do have a lot of people who are having double or triple conditions. They don’t have too much hopes as to when the vaccines are going to come to them, because looking at the elder people 65 and older being vaccinated, but if they are 60 double conditions, heart conditions and diabetes, they are not receiving the vaccines. They’ve been [inaudible 00:24:06]. It’s not a real big number, but it’s a really important number among these communities. So the fact that we are seeing these two groups, and when I say they are very vulnerable in this community, in this society in Minnesota, is really important for us.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (24:24)
We are hopeful that this is going to also create more awareness about the importance of the vaccine for the Latino communities. We know that there is an image that the Latinos are hesitant to receive the vaccination, but it’s not necessarily true. It’s more lack of information. So I hope we can also commit ourselves as their Hispanic advocacy community empowerment research in disseminate the news to the people that the vaccine is going to come to them.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (24:53)
And also we are committing here to work together with everybody in all the instances involved in bringing the vaccine to those workers that are in the state that are not necessarily well identified, because as working for the cooperation with the census last year also, it was very difficult to find the meatpacking industry workers. They are not necessarily in regular housing. They are not necessarily in identifiable places. So we need to really find them wherever they are. And we are raising awareness trying to help in finding them because it’s very important just to bring them to be vaccinated and help this important industry for Minnesota to be better.
Rodolfo Gutierrez: (25:44)
So I appreciate it really, the good news. I’m going to just pass the mic to Commissioner Peterson, who has some more important things to say. Thank you so much.
Tom Peterson: (26:04)
Thank you. Again, I am Tom Peterson, the Minnesota commissioner of agriculture. And I was thinking that I was pleased to be here today, but I’m actually relieved to be here today. And I’m thankful to be here today. It’s been a long year for our workers, for our farmers, for agricultural companies in Minnesota. If you think back to where we were about a year ago today, the first thing that really happened as we saw people really taking a look at their food supply, what was things going to be like? So we saw a run on our grocery stores. We saw a lot of panic buying. That backed up a lot of our system. That made plants want to run faster in the beginning of COVID to help fill those food supplies. And it’s interesting to think about that’s where we were.
Tom Peterson: (26:56)
Then as we moved into April, we unfortunately went into, as Mr. Gutierrez says, the virus spreading quickly throughout first our meat packing plants throughout our state. And then as we went into the summer, it continued to spread through our other canning companies, our other food processing plants. And it just continued to highlight the importance of our food system, and COVID. Minnesota, as Mr. Gutierrez said, is home. We’re an agricultural powerhouse. We’re home to Hormel’s, and Jenny O’s, Cargill’s, Landolakes, General Mills. And we dealt with that, as we came as quickly as possible. But we could see the supply chain and really highlighting the importance of our workers, that they need to feel safe in their workspace. They need to feel like they can come to work. And so working through that and really keeping up, because Minnesota, we don’t just feed our state. We feed our country, we feed the world here. And so we worked really hard too as an administration, as a department of agriculture, the governor himself, doing a lot of calls and continued weekly check-ins with our food companies, trying to understand big and small their needs as we moved in and ramped up for our vaccines.
Tom Peterson: (28:25)
I’m really thankful that we’re here today too. We’re much farther along than we thought we would be even just a little while ago. As we visited with our companies, we were really targeting even at April 1st spot for where we are today. So it’s exciting to see that we’re three weeks ahead to help provide the vaccine to first those food production workers in the plants, as commissioner Malcolm said, and we’ll be working with some of the plants to do onsite, the smaller plants working through the connector, and working with our local county public health, and a lot of different sites I think will really help move first that first sector of tier two agricultural processing workers fast. And then we’ll move quickly, I think, into that next step of food production workers, which is pretty all encompassing. And my message to all those workers is, when it’s your time, do get the vaccine, but also continue to take the precautions as Commissioner Malcolm and the governor said.
Tom Peterson: (29:28)
This newest comes too at a really important time. It really comes at a great time as in Mass, our farmer’s markets will be opening very shortly. Some are open now, but we’re going to see that more and more. And our support system for that, we’re seeing a lot of our fruit and vegetable growers are in their greenhouses now. We have H2A visa workers arriving. We have a lot of different production really ramping up right now. And so it’s really my pleasure to be here today, and as I said, relieved and thankful. Thank you.
Steve Grove: (30:12)
Hello everybody. My name is Steve Grove, the commissioner of the department of employment and economic development. Excited to be here today. As the governor said, it’s a great day. As Commissioner Peterson said, it is a relief, and we feel a continued sense of urgency to get this vaccine into as many arms as we possibly can in this state. And so doing that ahead of schedule is truly great news.
Steve Grove: (30:29)
The impacts of this pandemic for businesses and workers across the state have been incredibly challenging. No more so than for the businesses for whom working home wasn’t possible. In the past year, we’ve seen manufacturing companies completely retool their assembly lines and work environments to make them safer for workers. We’ve seen airlines like Delta and many others engage in new sanitation techniques and eliminate middle seats to make air flight travel work. We’ve seen restaurants completely reimagine their kitchens and their dining room floors. We’ve seen childcare workers step up in an extraordinary way, making Minnesota the number one state in the country if you’re a child throughout this pandemic.
Steve Grove: (31:08)
So all this time, our business community has not only done those things to keep workers and customers safe, but they’ve also contributed to the fight against COVID-19. They’ve produced millions of artifacts of PPE, they’ve distributed masks to employers and to customers, they’ve offered up food and essential goods to those who need them during the difficult year we’ve just had. And so quite simply, the Minnesota business community has stepped up, and quite simply, frontline workers like the one that Mr. Gutierrez was talking about are the true heroes of this pandemic. They may have seemed invisible to many before this all began, but may that never be the case again. This last year has shown how central these neighbors, friends, and family have been to making Minnesota work, and our gratitude for the sacrifices that they’ve made will live on, I hope, for the rest of our lives. So today is their turn, their time to go out and get vaccinated and get protected so we can get our economy back on the road to recovery.
Steve Grove: (32:04)
As commissioner Malcolm said, in addition to the food processing plants and workers that Commissioner Peterson spoke about, we’re also moving into vaccinating agricultural workers, airport staff, additional childcare workers, correctional facility workers, food production workers, food retail, food service. So think restaurants in the hospitality industry. The judicial system workers, manufacturers, public health workers, public transit workers, and the postal service. So we are excited to open the vaccine to these heroes. If you are on that list for the next phase, as my colleagues have mentioned but it bears repeating, it on that vaccine connector. Sign up. That’s the number one step, and then call your primary health providers. See about getting an appointment. Use that vaccine locator map on our website to find out where the nearest vaccine appointment might be. And for some employees, your employer may reach out to you specifically with information about vaccination opportunities. We’ve had a whole host of employers of larger companies step up and say to be willing to host vaccine sites, and we’ll look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.
Steve Grove: (33:06)
So we’re not out of the woods yet, as my colleagues have shared here already. This is really just an important step in our economic recovery. We have made some progress this year, but we still have over six times the average of our neighbors and friends in our state on unemployment insurance, we need to get them back into the economy. This is a great and important step toward doing that as we grow jobs and build our economy in the wake of this pandemic, I think with that, I’ll turn it back over to the governor.
Governor Tim Walz : (33:31)
Commissioner. Well as you can hear, there’s a lot of excitement in Minnesota. This is a good day, and I want to note the hundreds of conversations that happen with those employers, with providers, Commissioner Malcolm, her team, commissioner Peterson, Commissioner Grove, and all of our agencies reaching out, this guidance is out there now. With folks, we’ll continue to disseminate it out. I would remind Minnesotans, you may go into your pharmacy and say that there’s a chance-
Governor Tim Walz : (34:03)
… You may go into your pharmacy and say that. There’s a chance they maybe didn’t hear some of these changes, be a little bit patient. This information gets out. Again, if you’re sitting out there listening today or reading this and you’re 71 and still waiting, you are still our priority. You’ll reach out, your pharmacies, all those numerous channels to get you in. And the same with all those other groups. What we’re doing now is making sure that that highway just expanded a couple more lanes, that it’s going at full speed, that Minnesota still is in those top four or five in the nation of getting this out. And as Commissioner Grove said, the results matter. And I just think about the scope of this. I was reading over the weekend, some of you and the journalists have done a great job of going back and looking at the scope of how massive the last year has been and in just sheer numbers of, of 8 million plus tests.
Governor Tim Walz : (34:49)
Now we’re approaching 2 million vaccines. The number of changes we made, the hospitalizations, and then of course the tragedy of deaths amongst us, it is staggering. This is a global pandemic of once in a century proportions. And the good news is to be seeing this now at a point where we’re controlling our destiny. As I keep using that analogy, I can’t get away from it as a football coach. We had a goal line stand to protect everything in December, and then we got the ball back. We’re there, we’re not fumbling this thing as we’re going into score, we’re not giving up, we’re not letting the virus back up and those cautions you’re hearing from numerous places are warranted. We’re going back and really stepping up our sequencing on variants. We see they’re spreading and the numbers are scary. And again, not to rain on our parade, but to put things in the proper context, something we’ve done this whole time, giving Minnesotans the information they need, not necessarily what you just want to hear.
Governor Tim Walz : (35:46)
The B.1.1.7, just as an example, as Commissioner Malcolm would say, in a general room where you’re exposed to it and say people aren’t masking, you might not have had full social distancing, but some precautions are taking place, you can expect in those settings about 10% to 20% of people become infected with the normal variant. If B.1.1.7 is in that room, 80% to 100%. That was the nightmare scenario when we started this thing out, and some of those early projections people remember about from IHMC and some of the modeling was projected on that type of R-Naught of spread, it is out there. So Minnesotans, we’re close. Get your vaccine when you get a chance. This expanded the pool. Many of you listening are on the cusp now and you should be getting it very soon. A little bit of patience and the federal government’s ability to ramp us up more will get this even done faster.
Governor Tim Walz : (36:32)
And the next time I’m here to announce the next lane that’s in is basically the rest of Minnesota. That’s how close we are. So we got work to do, this is going to take weeks to plow through this group of folks. But again, take it when you can get it, mask up when you can. And if you’ve been vaccinated and you’re following the guidance, enjoy picking up those grandkids, enjoy being able to go do the things you haven’t been able to do and keep doing it right, Minnesota, so more and more of us can enter into that group that can go do these things in a more normal manner. With that, I got the whole group here to answer questions. So, Dave.
Speaker 1: (37:11)
Speaker 2: (37:12)
Governor and Commissioner Malcolm, how long will this take? You said a matter of weeks, what is your best estimate for how long it will take to get through this group?
Governor Tim Walz : (37:20)
Yeah, I’m going to let Jan do the specifics on it, Dave, and we’re basing this on current projected allocations from the federal government that, I have to be candid with you, I would be shocked if it went down and it’s probable that it’s going to go up. So with that, these are estimates based on what we know today.
Jan Malcom: (37:42)
Yes, I think that the governor laid it out correctly. So the projections that we’re making now are based on our current supply and what the federal government has told us we might expect by the end of March and April. So we imagine that this next group of very targeted underlying conditions could be done as quickly as 10 days. The food processing plants, the processing plants specifically we think are probably two weeks and that’s concurrent. Those are happening at the same time. Then that next second tier in this, in this current lane analogy, the next lane over, that larger group of essential workers and that much expanded list of people with underlying conditions, that will probably take four to six weeks at current projections.
Jan Malcom: (38:31)
And then as the Governor said, by the time we’re through with that next larger group, essentially the next announcement would be for pretty much everybody else. But again, I just want to stress that we are asking our healthcare providers to continue to prioritize those at greatest risk first, as they have been doing. And many of you have noted, even as we’ve been vaccinating, the 65 and older, many providers started with their patients 75 and older first. So that’s a good example of the need to keep on trying to get the greatest impact first, fastest, while though we are giving providers the flexibility of being able to work with these broader groups as they have supply available.
Governor Tim Walz : (39:21)
Speaker 3: (39:23)
Do you expect that Minnesotans will be able to see this vaccine rollout to all suppliers at the same rate, or will it be targeted towards certain regions, employers? What is that going to look like?
Governor Tim Walz : (39:37)
Commissioner, if you don’t mind doing that. For Minnesotans listening, you’re getting on the connector, you have a local Thrifty White or a Walgreens, or your local family pharmacy that’s downtown or your clinic or whatever, the way this is starting to work now, the people who know you best, and this is what we anticipated from very beginning is for you to get it in the least restricted manner with people who know you. So for me for example, being on the connector, I may hear from them.
Governor Tim Walz : (40:01)
But more than likely, I’ll get a call from Dr. Ghazal at the Saint Peter Clinic who is my doctor and he will say, “Tim, your time is up. Now you’re able to get the vaccine. You need to get it right now.” And we think that’s what’s going to happen. And that is very uniform. I’ll let Jen talk about the distribution, which I think the complexity behind this is much more than what people see on the front end. The good news is, again, the Commissioner showed me a chart today of counties that are above the certain numbers. In some counties, I think Cook you told me is 91% done, which is pretty amazing.
Jan Malcom: (40:43)
Well, we’ve talked many a time about our robust ecosystem and the all of the above approach. I know when we first started with the state mass vaccination sites, people were concerned and frustrated to think that they had to go through the lottery and drive a long way to get vaccinated at those sites. Those were always intended to be an option and something that we could stand up large throughput fast if we have the amount of vaccine and if the federal government, for instance, would give us a big bolus of vaccine at once. But we were always intending for people to be able to get the vaccine through their healthcare provider as the Governor has said, through their community pharmacies, through local public health. And in the case of some of these workforce sectors, work site-based vaccination.
Jan Malcom: (41:27)
So all of those different distribution channels are getting allocations of vaccine each week and we will be flexible and evolve. Education and childcare is a great example of this. We did prioritize that population for some of the state sites early on. Now with the federal government saying the federal retail pharmacy program is to prioritize childcare and education, now we’re saying to the remaining group, and we think we’re definitely over 60% of the educators and childcare workers having been vaccinated, but those who haven’t yet now they have that community pharmacy network available to them. So each group, really, there’s a logical main provider, healthcare providers themselves in the case of the underlying conditions. But we’ll, again, through the connector and other means be letting people know, “This is probably your main source, but there’s also these other sources available to you at the same time.”
Speaker 4: (42:25)
If I can ask, to use the highway analogy, there’s probably in this group of 30% of seniors, those that don’t even know how to find the on-ramp. They’re sheltered, they’re maybe disconnected from some of these messages. Are you going to do any special outreach to get to them? There’s been things like vacci-taxi in other countries and states.
Governor Tim Walz : (42:47)
Yeah, absolutely. And the thing that I want to stress here in Minnesota to say, “Thank you so much,” the issue around vaccine hesitancy or just maybe no information about it or groups that are harder to get to or the issues we’re seeing with language barriers or things like that, we’ve really been focusing on that to make sure that we’re out there to get them. And I’ll let the Commissioner talk about this, but I asked about, “How do we do in-home? How do we now get drive-throughs for folks who it’s a lot of work to get into a car and then to go in?” And again, no matter how convenient and how fast the Viking Training Center was or the Mall of America, there’s still some people that it’s going to be hard to try and get to, and we are thinking about that to make sure that everybody wants to get it. So Jan, maybe elaborate.
Jan Malcom: (43:35)
So here’s an example where most of our healthcare systems either have as part of their organization or contract with home health providers, for example, who could go do vaccination of home bound patients. Local public health is extremely good at knowing their communities and knowing where there are concentrations of at-risk populations. If that’s housing developments or in some of our community partners, Mr. Gutierrez leads one of the organizations that is one of our COVID community connectors. So helping us know, “Where are there pockets of vulnerable people who aren’t going to be reached in the traditional way?” We’re talking about standing up mobile vaccination vehicles and working with community paramedics to get paramedics to be able to go into the homes of home bound people to administer vaccine. So there’s certainly awareness that, as the governor said, not everybody’s going to be even able to get to their clinic, but they may well be able to be served right in their home through some of these other methods.
Speaker 5: (44:41)
Governor and Commissioner, a lot of people 50 plus are going to be covered by one of these categories, either they’re an essential worker or they’ve got one of these conditions. But as you know, some states have opened it up fully to 50 plus, they’re doing an age-based rollout, essentially. Why did you decide against that?
Governor Tim Walz : (45:03)
We think this is more efficient. Some of those states, and we’ve looked at who’ve done it, are not getting their vaccines out as fast. It creates that bottleneck. It also goes against what we’re saying. We do believe there’s people that are at higher risks that we need to get into that line as quickly as possible and then move to that next group. But there’s some states that are doing it that way. They’re not getting them to folks any faster. And I said this at the beginning when we started stratifying based on CDC guidance and our provider guidance here in the state, we could have added everybody to the list and you would have said, “Okay, I’m in line.” That didn’t mean you were going to get it. This is the most efficient, I think, to keep people moving.
Governor Tim Walz : (45:42)
And we knew early on, if you remember the prediction of the trying to get Springsteen tickets when we announced the first time, that frustration we knew would be there in the beginning, but it was always the plan to get this deep system where it will go. So I’m looking at myself when I first saw it of being one of those folks, mid fifties, and only being at a 29.9 BMI, I will wait until may on that to get the vaccine. But I knew all along of looking at it that I would come in that group where it would be in May. A lot of folks like me, this is the last group to go, which will be myself, we’re now looking, if you listen to what the Commissioner is saying, middle of April is where we think we can get to. Potentially that, if the vaccines keep going up. So that was the reasoning behind it. Jan, any-
Speaker 6: (46:31)
Governor, I know that you guys have-
Governor Tim Walz : (46:53)
Mic blew out? That’s a good question.
Jan Malcom: (46:53)
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, we always appreciate the chance to reinforce this message, it is an extremely effective vaccine where it counts, which counts most, which is preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death. So this is an appropriate vaccine for all populations in terms of its effectiveness. The federal government’s also made it very clear, and it’s a priority that we share, that all communities would have access to all the vaccines. So we will not be saying, “This particular community can only have access to Johnson & Johnson or only have Pfizer or only have Moderna.” We will be making sure that all communities have access to multiple types of vaccine. That said, there are some particular settings that would seem to be particularly great for a one dose vaccine. The food workers being one, populations that have more transportation challenges being another. So we will be very intentional about suggesting appropriate uses for these various vaccines. But just to be abundantly clear, they’re all effective and they all should be available, which does not mean that on any given day, you or I could walk into our clinic and say, “I’d like that one.”
Jan Malcom: (48:12)
They are often set up where one clinic will administer one particular type of vaccine. But we keep saying to people, the best advice that any of us can give is get the first vaccine you’re offered. The best vaccine is the one that’s protecting you today, so that is really essential. So people might prefer to wait for Johnson & Johnson or they might really prefer Pfizer, but that doesn’t mean that they can walk into a pharmacy or their clinic and get it that day. If you’re offered the Pfizer vaccine and you say, “I’d really rather wait for Johnson & Johnson,” you would have that option, but then you’d have to get in a different line, so to speak, to wait for a Johnson & Johnson clinic, for example. So there is that complexity. I don’t want to oversimplify that it’s just like a menu you can order off of, but we will make sure that people know that these vaccines are effective and when different ones of them would be available.
Speaker 7: (49:13)
Governor, on Friday you mentioned that there might be some discussion about making it more equitable by allowing people of color who are perhaps 50 and older to get vaccines, because we know the outcomes for them, as you put it, they might be worse than someone who’s 65 and older and white. Can you talk about what, if any, plans have been established around that, and are you discussing doing that?
Governor Tim Walz : (49:44)
Yes, and the answer is I’ll let the Commissioner talk about this. This is where we trust the providers and we trust the folks that are out there to know. We’re at that point right now, where we can’t just be setting on these things and we let these folks know who their folks are or where these are being offered to reach down into populations that might not by absolute letter of the law be on this list. There’s certainly the spirit of the law and the spirit of what we’re doing here is to get the most vulnerable vaccinated as quickly as possible to make a difference. So Commissioner, you may talk about the guidance you put out.
Jan Malcom: (50:18)
What we’re doing to follow up on that idea is there are some pilots going on right now with the federally qualified health centers and some of the community pharmacies that are located in particular geographies that are in high social vulnerability index areas. That social vulnerability index is something we talked about a couple months ago, that is a CDC formula that takes into account all kinds of different variables. Income, housing, racial and ethnic makeup, just many different variables that indicate a geographic area or population living in that area that is at higher risk on a number of factors. So for pharmacies and-
Speaker 8: (51:03)
It’s got a number of factors. So, for pharmacies and clinics located in some of those geographic areas that we know are serving some of the populations who’ve been the hardest hit by this pandemic, they have the flexibility to vaccinate at a younger age, people with some of these underlying conditions. So, that’s how we’re approaching it is, as the governor said, trusting the providers who are located in in these certain communities with giving them more flexibility>
Speaker 9: (51:30)
Does prioritize, does getting through this group of 65 plus, now moving on to people with high-risk conditions, does it change your timeline at all? You’re thinking about opening up businesses, there’s been a big push lately about having more fans at the Twins Home opener, et cetera.
Governor Tim Walz : (51:50)
Well, I spent yesterday morning talking with Dave St. Peter and folks from Minnesota United. They’re on 1st, 8th and the 15th, their opening days. We’re very cognizant of that. We continuously work on this and Commissioner Grove would tell you that. The answer is yes, that if you recall, we started out and we still use it as a driving factor about protecting Minnesotans, following the science, but also understanding that Venn diagram we used, that had healthcare considerations, it had wellbeing, and it had economic considerations and that sweet spot in the middle. As you’re seeing folks are making these determinations, we believe it’s correct to be able to do this. We’ve taken I think, a measured approach that has paid dividends, both on the health side of things, and on the economic sides of things. But, we think that time is now, and I’ll just be totally candid with you.
Governor Tim Walz : (52:36)
These variants are the thing that keep playing into this because we’re moving with decisions that need to be made. The Twins need to know how many tickets they’re going to sell for opening day on April 8th, and we want to give them that certainty. We want to base it on the science. We want to base it on that economic impact. So, the answer is, yes, we’re doing that. We’re going to try and get that information out to them as quickly as possible. Please know that there are discussions happening with all of these sectors, and commissioner Grove everyday is on there. We were on yesterday with all the major sports teams across Minnesota. Again, the state tournaments are coming up, and the idea that I want to see parents and grandparents and student body see their kids play, see their friends play and their children play in a state tournament is really important to us.
Governor Tim Walz : (53:22)
We’re trying to figure out how to do that as safely as possible, get that guidance out, while we’re trying to balance this race on the vaccine versus a variant going up. So, again, for those who want to see all these things happen, I’m going to come back to this again. Our most important tools are two of the things that we’ve stressed the entire time, the wearing masks and getting tested. We have tests so available, and that we don’t want to sit on that capacity. So, keep doing that. We’ll put out this guidance, I would say, in a matter of a very short amount of time. They need lead time.
Speaker 9: (53:54)
Right. Days or a couple of weeks?
Governor Tim Walz : (53:57)
Speaker 9: (53:58)
Will it be days or a couple of weeks?
Governor Tim Walz : (54:02)
I think days. Again, I don’t want to play coy with you. It’s where we’re working on this, and I’m watching that variant data. There’s Jan. I believe you’re going to report 40 more today that came out of that cluster, that we’re a little nervous about, but we need to get this out to them so that they have time. The Twins and Dave St. Peter mentioned he likes the 30 days and that’s today. So, I’m hearing him that he wants to know, and we’re anticipating them. We’re giving them all the data we’re seeing. I will say this, that again, it may be an anomaly for today, but our test positivity rates jumped up to, I believe, to 7.5%, for one day. Not a pattern make, not an indicator necessarily of direction. It’s just something that we hadn’t seen that happen in many, many weeks.
Governor Tim Walz : (54:48)
So, that’s playing into this, so I’m trying to get it out to them. I think the thing that I would say to all of you is that I feel, and I think Commissioner Malcolm is always trying to balance this. We feel much more confident about giving guidance after say, the 1st, even the 1st of April, but certainly the 1st of May and the 1st of June. Because, if there’s grooms out there planning a wedding, you want to know. If there’s concerts being planned, as some of you heard me say that if the Green Day concert, I need to use my tickets, those are out there. We want people to know that, to be able to plan, and these large venues as Commissioner Grove tells me every time, these places have been decimated, just because of the nature of the virus, and they’re the ones that need probably the longest lead time.
Governor Tim Walz : (55:34)
Just as, for example, to get this out there, Minnesota United is going to be hosting some of the biggest soccer matches in the world, outside the World Cup, coming up this fall. They need some certainty because those tickets are going to sell out in seconds, and they want to know, can we go to full capacity? How do we get that? That’s what we’re trying to work on, so I think the certainty of August 1st, after that, we’re going to know folks. Again, I don’t want to speak out of turn here. We’re going to know in the next month, whether as Dr. Osterholm said yesterday, we’re in the middle, we’re in the eye of a hurricane. The skies above us are blue and the winds are calm, but there is a lot of danger around us. We’re going to find out, does that hurricane dissipate or do we hit the other side of it? I think, again, these next three to four weeks, that’s why this guidance is a little bit difficult right now. Is that fair to say? Sure.
Speaker 10: (56:32)
Governor, how do you expect the vaccine supply to change, to meet the surge in demand, and will the state be prioritizing the vaccine distribution any differently in these next phases?
Governor Tim Walz : (56:44)
No, I think I’ll have the Commissioner talk about that. Again, we can, if we get more. I think, and what I’m hearing and I’ll be on with here, I believe right after this at noon with the Biden administration and some of the other governors, we saw that little lag because they didn’t have a whole bunch of J&J built. But, I think we’re going to see within the next couple of weeks, this partnership between Merck and J&J potentially provide an awful lot more. So, it’s my anticipation that the Biden administration’s promise to us that everybody who wanted the shot could get it by the end of May. I think that’s going to even speed up even more, because I think their timeline is accelerating, which is accelerating our timeline of getting them out.
Governor Tim Walz : (57:25)
So, it’s my hope, and again, you can see why we’re confident about summer events, that we think we can offer this to that final group sometime, knock on wood, the middle of April to the final group coming in, and that’s going to be a big group of folks, a million plus. But, we get them done by May and we get, and again, Minnesotans, if we get 80 plus % of people vaccinated, that takes everything out. If we get 100% of people vaccinated with the efficacy of these vaccines, we get this and we need to encourage everybody to do that. We need to encourage other states. Again, I want to, my friend, Andy Beshear said it, it doesn’t do us much good for one state to do really, really well and another not when it comes to vaccination, because of the bleed-over between them. It’s still going to cause issues.
Speaker 10: (58:13)
Governor, I want to go back just a little bit to the reopening idea. There’s an argument to be made that we are rapidly approaching a state where vast swaths of the state are immune from vaccination or from already being infected. Restaurant workers are now going to be getting vaccinated. Can we make an argument, and can you respond to the idea that we should essentially remove restrictions from restaurants and bars and gathering places like that, so that people who have been vaccinated can then go into those places and enjoy them. People like me who have not, need to stay the heck away.
Governor Tim Walz : (58:48)
Yeah, no, these are fair arguments, and we said all along and again, the folks who made the case that we should open are the same folks who made the case that we should have opened last April, that we should have opened in November, during the surge. There’s a chunk of those, but there is also a chunk who are actually watching the science and following this. I’ll let Jan speak a little bit about this. We actually think this might be the case now with the vaccine, and where we’re at, that almost a county by county or a regional approach might be the way to work. Because again, if you’re up in, in Two Harbors in that area up there, we have an older population that’s mainly vaccinated and, and the CDC is saying they can gather. So, I think it’s a fair argument.
Governor Tim Walz : (59:29)
We’re at that point of talking about it. The one thing is, is that we’re being cautioned and I’ve cautioned from the beginning, the belief that you just open everything up, and it’s going to be okay, and it’s fine, or that business is going to come roaring back. That doesn’t prove true. I would argue that our budget surplus and some of those things, prove that there’s a measured way, but this question is a good one. Jan, I don’t know if you want to … That’s where we’re at. So, we are considering, and I just have to, again, not being coy, we’re on the verge of moving some of these things. Just to be clear, I think we would have been there last week without the emergence of the variant, because it does pose, and we’re being told by every health expert to cautiously watch this and see where you’re at, which we’re doing.
Governor Tim Walz : (01:00:10)
But I still think, if folks are anticipating, we certainly believe it is time to make some of these changes, certainly in the 30 to 60 to 90 days out, we can give certainty to those folks. They can start planning accordingly. You can start planning your June wedding, is what we’re going to be able to say. All right. Well, I want to take a point of personal privilege here, and thank you to all of you, that we gather at these to get information out to Minnesotans. We gather amongst folks who are professionals at asking follow-on questions to make sure that Minnesotans who are listening, are going to read, see this, get the opportunity to get the best information. There’s been somebody who’s been here since the beginning, ensuring that every single Minnesota had access to this information in real time. That person is by far the most popular person on this podium, and the most well-known of that. So, I would like to make a proclamation today for Nic Zapko, our interpreter, who we’ve all come to really appreciate and enjoy, and who is totally unaware I was going to do this.
Governor Tim Walz : (01:01:33)
The COVID-19 pandemic’s created an unprecedented need for Minnesotans to receive clear, timely and accurate public health information. 20% of Minnesotans identify as deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. For the past year, Nic Zapko has provided critical ASL translation for the Governor’s near-daily press conferences to update Minnesotans on the status of the pandemic. Nic’s translations ensure that thousands of Minnesota, who identify as deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing, receive real- time access to information that will keep them safe. In her role, Nic has gained local and national fame for her animated and accurate delivery of critical information, particularly when Minnesota has been on the national stage for COVID-19 response and during the civil unrest. Today, Nic celebrates her birthday, and the State of Minnesota wishes her a very Happy Birthday, and thanks her for service. So, now, therefore, I Tim Walz, the Governor of Minnesota do hereby proclaim Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 as Nic Zapko Day. Congratulations. Thank you all. Thanks everybody.
Speaker 11: (01:03:02)
Governor Tim Walz : (01:04:08)
Thank you everyone. This is good news.