DULUTH, MN -- Duluth city leaders gave an update Thursday on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed the new coronavirus variant, which has been found in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
St. Louis County leaders said cases of COVID-19 are down. Fewer people are also getting tested.
One month since distribution began, about 4% of the St. Louis County population has been vaccinated, according to Amy Westbrook, St. Louis County Public Health Director.
As of Thursday, 8,377 people have been vaccinated in St. Louis County.
More than 1,000 people have received their second dose of the shot.
"I know it's not a high number, but we are moving along as quickly as we can as supply allows," Westbrook said.
St. Louis County is averaging 62 new cases of COVID-19 per day, according to Westbrook. Around 8 percent of the people who get tested receive a positive result.
More people can now get vaccinated, the state of Minnesota announced Thursday.
Healthcare workers got priority in the first phase.
Now, people 65 and older, and younger people with underlying health conditions can get the shots.
St. Louis County wants to expand distribution, but Westbrook said there are not enough doses to go around.
"We as a state do not have the vaccine supply currently to meet that demand," Westbrook said.
Essentia Health said they also want to vaccinate people who qualify in the next phase, but supplies are limited.
When they get more doses, Essentia will directly contact patients who qualify and hopes they get vaccinated.
"Because if you're infected, especially unknowingly, you may transmit the virus to someone who is highly vulnerable," Essentia Health East Market President Dr. Jon Pryor said. "All the more reason to get vaccinated when you have the opportunity."
Pryor said, even though businesses are opening up, the community still needs to practice caution, like wearing a mask and social distancing, to help stop the spread.
St. Louis County will continue planning with Duluth hospitals as they try to get more people vaccinated.
"We'll have to work together to determine what the distribution looks like if priority populations are opened up," Westbrook said.
County and health leaders do not currently know when they will receive more doses of the vaccine.
This week, health officials detected five cases of a more contagious, but not more deadly, variant of COVID-19 in Minnesota's metro area.
Westbrook said the variant is likely more widespread than just those five cases.
"We are anticipating that it is more prevalent across the state than just those five cases because it is a variant that is infectious," Westbrook said.
Hospital leaders said the vaccine is still effective against the variant, but it can be easily spread.
Because of the variant, St. Luke's is no longer allowing visitors at the hospital, but there are some exceptions.
Pryor said they expect to see the variant in Duluth, but it has not been officially detected yet.