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The daily coronavirus update: 9 more deaths; twice as many unemployment applications in last month as in all of 2019

There are 1,695 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 45 from Monday’s count.

COVID-19
COVID-19
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.

Here are the latest updates from April 14, 2020:

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1,695 confirmed cases; 79 deaths

Nine more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 79.

Of the deaths announced Tuesday:

  • Six were Hennepin County residents, five of whom were in the eighties. One was in their nineties.
  • Dakota, Ramsey and Wilkin counties saw one death each. Among these, one person was in their sixties and two were in their seventies.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said of the 79 people who have died, 57 have been associated with long-term care facilities, which remain a state response priority. Nearly all of the people who have died had underlying health conditions, and their median age is 87.

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The state death total currently only includes only people who tested positive for COVID-19 and died, so it doesn’t include some deaths reported in the media, such as a 38-year-old man from Cambridge. MDH says it is reviewing death certificates for COVID-related causes, but that process takes longer and those deaths are not currently reflected in the state total.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MDH also said Tuesday there have been 1,695 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 45 from Monday’s count. Because Minnesota doesn’t have the capacity to test everybody with symptoms, the number of people with the virus is assumed to be significantly higher.

Since the start of the outbreak, 405 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 177 are currently in the hospital, 75 in intensive care. Of the 1,695 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 909 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are considered to have recovered.

A total of 39,241 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Minnesota.

More information on cases can be found here.

The latest at the Legislature

The Minnesota Legislature adopted its fourth COVID-19 response bill Tuesday, a series of legal changes to make government able to conduct some normal functions in a stay-at-home world.

House File 4556 makes tweaks to law such as letting betrothed couples to get marriage licenses without showing up at license counters in person, extending deadlines for certain licenses, allowing emergency hospitals to be permitted, requiring telemedicine to be covered by health plans and adding $1.25 million to Second Harvest food shelves.

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Lawmakers could not reach agreement on how to pay hourly school employees during the school closure executive order; expand a program to pay rents and mortgages of residents unable to pay because of COVID-related economic distress; or allow restaurants to sell beer and wine with take-out orders.

The House also easily rejected a motion to end Walz’s declaration of a peacetime emergency and the executive orders he has signed under that power since March 13.

Twice as many unemployment applications in past month as in all of 2019

Minnesota’s unemployment insurance program has reached another unfortunate milestone. Twice as many people have applied for benefits in the last month — 451,790 — than during all of 2019. Those applicants represent 14 percent of the state’s labor force.

Commissioner Steve Grove
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Commissioner Steve Grove
“The scope and scale of this is stunning,” said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Of the unemployment applicants, about 75 percent are white. But those residents make up 12.2 percent of the white labor force, while 25.8 percent of people of color in the labor force have applied for benefits.

Grove said his agency is still trying to set up unemployment benefits for newly eligible people who are self employed or independent contractors. It’s been complicated because it requires a new system to track salary and protect against fraud, Grove said, and no state has been able to pay out money to the newly eligible yet. Grove said his team is working to build out an automated process to speed up income verification, as well as a new technology platform to help the program run.

Grove said people who are eligible and waiting for benefits should apply for unemployment now. They will get denied initially, but since they will be added to the state’s system it will be a quicker process to get payments once the program begins. Grove said DEED is hoping to be operational by the end of April and payments will be backdated to when the federal stimulus bill passed. “Rest assured you will get the money you deserve when we’re up and running,” he said.

Health grant applications open

MDH has opened applications for $150 million in grant funding to help health care organizations respond to COVID-19. The money can go toward things like expanding operations, paying for staffing and funding supplies for clinics, pharmacies, acute and long-term care, hospitals, health systems and ambulance services. The money is part of a $200 million COVID-19 response package passed by the Legislature.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says she doesn’t envision the money being able to fund every request, and will focus on needs as well as statewide and regional priorities.

There’s no deadline to apply, but Malcolm urged those looking to put in an application do so soon. More information can be found here.

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MDH’s coronavirus website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920