COVID-19 booster shots are being made available to Minnesotans who are eligible to receive them under the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health officials announced Friday.

Locally, Riverwood Healthcare said it would begin offering booster shots this week. GuidePoint Pharmacy said it would start booster shots Oct. 8, and it will be by appointment only.

Tim Johnson, a pharmacist at GuidePoint, said the business anticipated handing boosters the same way it did its original shots, with online signup via GuidePoint’s Facebook page.

Currently, there are about 70 COVID-19 cases in Aitkin County, according to Public Health Supervisor Erin Melz.

Minnesotans who got the Pfizer vaccine can get a booster shot at least six months after their initial series if they fall into certain categories as defined by the CDC, including those 65 and older and others with underlying medical conditions.

Federal health experts are reviewing data from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and will decide when people who received those vaccines may be eligible for a booster shot.

COVID-19 data released Friday show the state is still in the grips of the virus. Health officials reported 2,997 newly confirmed or probable cases and 27 newly reported deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 8,076 since the pandemic began.

Health officials said they expect the state will reach the benchmark of 700,000 overall cases in a few days.

“These are numbers we had hoped we would not see again,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Friday.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Minnesota has risen over the past two weeks from five deaths per day on Sept. 8 to 11.29 deaths per day on Sept. 22.

A total of 752 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 213 in intensive care units, officials said.

St. Cloud Hospital says its intensive care unit has been full of COVID-19 patients for about two weeks, forcing the facility to expand its ICU and delay care for patients with other conditions. Dr. George Morris, CentraCare Health’s medical incident commander, told the St. Cloud Times that about 90% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated.

“Because COVID-19 has taken up so many ICU beds, we are now having a hard time placing people who have had car accidents or strokes or heart attacks,” Morris told the Star Tribune.

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