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The daily coronavirus update: Fifth Minnesotan dies from COVID-19; Walz signs relief bill

The total number of confirmed cases in the state rose to 441.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

For the foreseeable future, MinnPost will be providing daily updates on coronavirus in Minnesota, published following the press phone call conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) with Gov. Tim Walz and administration officials each afternoon. (Since it’s the weekend, just MDH today).

Here are the latest updates from March 28, 2020:

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441 cases, 5 deaths

A fifth Minnesotan — a Ramsey County resident in their seventies — has died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Saturday.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
As of Saturday, all five people who died of COVID-19 in Minnesota so far have been in their seventies or eighties and had underlying health conditions, said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann.

The department also reported 441 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Saturday, up 43 from Friday’s count of 398.

The age range of cases announced Saturday is 2 to 73 years of age.

“I’ll tell you right now the 2-year-old is doing well,” Ehresmann said.

Because of a lack of testing capacity, the true number of cases in the state is likely higher than 441.

30 Minnesotans are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, 13 in intensive care. 220 Minnesotans who tested positive for COVID-19 at one point no longer need to be isolated, meaning they are considered to have recovered.

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Minnesota has 20 outbreaks in congregate living facilities, meaning either a resident or staff member has tested positive in them. The term “congregate living” is broad and includes long-term care as well as things like homeless shelters, prisons and jails, but no cases have yet been reported in prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

Walz signs $330 million COVID-19 relief bill

On Saturday, Gov. Tim Walz signed the $330 million COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature. From MinnPost state government reporter Peter Callaghan:

[The bill] includes money for child care centers, homeless services and food banks. It creates new loan funds for small businesses and establishes a new account called the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund. That fund received $200 million to pay for undetermined costs to “protect Minnesota citizens” and “maintain state government operations.” Any expenditure must be approved by a special commission of legislative leaders and expires on May 11, presumably because lawmakers will return by then.

MDH still pursuing tracing of contacts of positive cases

For all positive cases of COVID-19, Minnesota Department of Health officials are still doing contact tracing — trying to find the people who that person may have been in close contact with before developing symptoms.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, MDH traces contacts going back 24 hours before their symptoms started. A team follows up with those contacts, advising them on expectations and recommendations for limiting their activity and potential to expose others to the virus.

“We have reached out to hundreds and hundreds of contacts since our first case was identified,” Ehresmann said.

Since limited testing capacity makes the true number of cases unknown, Ehresmann said it’s important that anyone who feels unwell stay home.

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“Because we know that we have transmission in the community, we’re asking everyone to be very self-aware and monitor for symptoms,” Ehresmann said. “It would be far better, if you started to feel crummy on a given afternoon, if you removed yourself from whatever you were doing and kind of isolated yourself.

“While the system doesn’t allow us to do contact tracing on absolutely everyone, if the population is focused on self-monitoring and isolating themselves and staying out of public when they have any symptoms that will go a long way in reducing transmission,” she said. More guidance on what to do if you think you might have COVID-19 can be found here.

Tom Hanks home

Today in good news, Page Six reports America’s dad, Tom Hanks, is home, along with his wife Rita Wilson. The two tested positive for COVID-19 while in Australia. They endured quarantine Down Under with good attitudes, posting updates and funnies on Instagram.

Today on MinnPost:

For more information, visit MDH’s coronavirus website.

Or call its COVID-19 health questions hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920