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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesota surpasses 1,000 confirmed cases; Walz expected to extend stay-at-home order

Also: More than 355,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance since March 16, and state data show people of color applying for the benefits at much higher rates than white residents. 

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 7, 2020:

1,069 confirmed cases; 34 deaths 

Four more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, state health officials said Tuesday. There have now been 34 deaths from the disease in Minnesota. The four people who died were a Dakota County resident in their 60s, a Winona County resident in their 90s, a Hennepin County resident in their 90s and a Hennepin County resident in their 80s. All were residents of long-term care facilities.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 1,069 people have confirmed cases of coronavirus, up from 986 on Monday. Because the state lacks the capacity to test everyone with symptoms, the number of people with the virus is assumed to be much higher.

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There are 120 people currently hospitalized from COVID-19. Of those patients, 64 are in intensive care, an increase of seven from Monday. As of Tuesday, 549 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 no longer need to be isolated because they have recovered.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Jan Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, said Minnesota is handling its outbreak well, according to at least one key metric: how often the number of confirmed cases in the state doubles. That information can show if there’s exponential growth in cases. In the first weeks of March, cases were doubling every one or two days. 

Since March 18, roughly when many of the state’s restrictions on public life began, cases have doubled every eight days, Malcolm said. “That’s good news for our state,” Malcolm said. “It tells us that the social distancing and other mitigations are having a positive impact. We need to keep this up so that we can reduce the chance our health care system will be overwhelmed by a surge in cases.”

More than 29,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 between the MDH Public Health Laboratory and commercial labs in Minnesota.

More information on cases can be found here.

Stay at home order could be extended Wednesday

Gov. Tim Walz told reporters he would give an in-depth update on the state strategy for slowing the spread of coronavirus on Wednesday, and hinted his stay-home order would remain largely in place beyond its original Friday expiration date. “I think it’s already pretty clear that we will continue with heading down our stay-at-home order, but using the data to refine that in a way that makes sense,” Walz said.

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Walz said the social distancing orders have worked, but that doesn’t mean life can return to normal shortly. For one, the governor said he’d still like to see an increase in antibody testing to determine who has recovered from COVID-19 and rapid testing to determine who has the disease. “We’re not going to give up on the things that are working (in the stay-home order), but I think we can add more things that work to that,” Walz said.

COVID-19 deaths by race

State officials have released data on the race and ethnicity of people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as those who died. So far, 79 percent of deaths in the state are reportedly white, non-Hispanic residents, while 3 percent are Asian. The race of another 15 percent of people who died is unknown or missing, however. Malcolm called the data “quite limited.”

So while the preliminary statistics don’t currently show people of color contracting COVID-19 or dying from the disease at disproportionate rates, the high levels of conditions like diabetes and asthma in black and indigenous communities mean it’s still a possibility. “Which means that we absolutely expect and know that COVID-19 can disproportionately impact those groups of Minnesotans,” Malcolm said.

Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
Gov. Tim Walz
More than 70 percent of those who have died in Louisiana from COVID-19 were black, for example, even though African-Americans make up only 32 percent of the state’s population.

Minnesota ‘still on the early end of our curve’

Amid horror stories from places like Italy and New York, it might be tempting for Minnesotans to see a comparatively slow increase in cases and get a false sense of security.

Don’t, both Malcolm and Walz said Tuesday. While they believe community mitigation efforts have helped slow the growth of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota so far, it’s still early, they warned.

“We continue to prepare for and expect that we are still on the early end of our curve,” Malcolm said. “While I’m personally really gratified to see the growth rate staying in a stable zone, I know that could change any day and we’re likely to see much more rapid increases over the next few weeks.”

Hospitalization and death rates vary by state

It’s been difficult to compare the differential impact coronavirus is having across the U.S.: scarcity of testing has made it virtually impossible to compare caseloads across state lines.

Hospitalizations and deaths less so, which is where a new project by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management that tracks deaths and hospitalizations per capita for states that report them, comes in. 

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The researchers found that among 23 states reporting cumulative hospitalizations, there are an average of 7.8 hospital admissions per 100,000 adults. Minnesota, so far, has had 5.4 hospitalizations per 100,000 adults.

Minnesota has seen 0.72 deaths per 100,000 adults, and 0.13 deaths per hospitalization. In some states, those numbers are much higher. Louisiana, for example, has seen 15 deaths per 100,000 adults. 

Explore the data yourself here.

Disparities emerge in unemployment applications

More than 355,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance since March 16, a total of 11.4 percent of the state’s workforce. Program data show people of color have applied for the benefits at much higher rates than white residents.

Commissioner Steve Grove
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Commissioner Steve Grove
Steve Grove, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, told reporters that 19 percent of people of color in Minnesota’s labor force have applied for unemployment compared to 9.5 percent of white workers. “Those disparities exist in unemployment just as they do in health,” Grove said.

His office has translated state information into other languages and had an outreach campaign to reach leaders and media in minority communities. Grove said nearly half of loans authorized for the state’s small business emergency loan program have gone to lenders that exclusively serve business owners of color.

Cub creates supply line for child care providers

Cub Foods and its parent company has created a new supply line for child care providers, the governor’s office announced Tuesday. Many of those businesses have struggled to get essential supplies such as sanitizing materials, thermometers and food. The new supply line allows providers that serve children of essential workers to order products more directly and get them “at convenient, flexible hours and locations,” a news release says.

Today on MinnPost

Around the web

  • Grocery workers are beginning to die of coronavirus, reports the Washington Post.
  • Could Major League Baseball return in May — played only in Phoenix? ESPN reports that players and league officials are considering the idea.
  • Minnesota’s stay-at-home order encourages getting outside. But how far should you travel to get there? MPR’s Dan Kraker says state officials are asking people to stay close to home.
  • The Seattle Times found 8 virtual vacations you can take right now from your home couch.

For more information visit the MDH’s coronavirus website

MDH’s coronavirus Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920