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The daily coronavirus update: 13 more deaths; officials say drop in cases not a sign of slowing pandemic

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Monday there have been 11,799 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, up 528 from Sunday’s count. 

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 May 11, 2020:

11,799 confirmed cases; 591 deaths 

State health officials on Monday reported another 13 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, for a total of 591 deaths in the state. 

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Of the deaths announced Monday, six people were in their 90s, two people were in their 80s, one person was in their 70s, three people were in their 60s and one person was in their 50s. Nine of the people were residents of Hennepin County and two lived in Ramsey County. One resident of Rice County and one resident of Stearns county also died.

Nine of the 13 people who died were living in long-term care or assisted living facilities. So far, 472 of the 591 Minnesotans who have died of COVID-19 were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests. 

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Monday there have been 11,799 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, up 528 from Sunday’s count. 

The number of positives is expected to increase significantly as Minnesota begins to test more people under an initiative announced in April to test as many as 20,000 Minnesotans per day. Late last month, state officials said anyone with COVID-19-like symptoms should be able to get tested. Previously, tests had been limited to specific populations whose results mattered most for public health.

A total of 115,781 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota, an increase of 4,693 from Sunday.

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Since the start of the outbreak, 1,716 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 452 are currently in the hospital, 194 in intensive care. Of the 11,799 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 7,536 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are believed to have recovered or have died.

More information on cases can be found here.

Drop in case numbers not a sign of slowing pandemic

The number of positive cases confirmed each day in Minnesota has dipped from a high of 786 on Thursday to 528 on Monday. 

But MDH infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the decline is likely not a sign the pandemic is easing, but rather a function of the state’s testing. Ehresmann said the state has been doing intensive COVID-19 testing in meatpacking plants, where the virus spreads easily and officials expect to see a high rate of positive cases. As that testing has “leveled off,” it’s likely caused a slight downturn in the daily number of positive cases.  

Shipment of COVID-19 drug arrives, more on its way

Health officials also said Monday that Minnesota received its first shipment this weekend of a therapeutic COVID-19 drug Remdesivir, and that MDH expects another small allotment Tuesday. 

The first batch of Remdesivir was enough to treat roughly 109 patients while the second should have enough for about 36.

MDH released guidance on distributing the drug, which will go first to COVID-19 patients on ventilators or using other “advanced respiratory support.” The second priority group of COVID-19 patients are those who are severely ill and may be using supplemental oxygen, but who are not on a ventilator. 

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Doctors must take many factors into account when choosing who to administer the drug to, such as whether a patient is “imminently and irreversibly dying or terminally ill with a life expectancy under 6 months,” the guidance says.

Initial research on Remdesivir shows the drug could shorten recovery time for people sick with COVID-19, according to federal health officials. 

New modeling scenario released; officials say it’s already outdated

Health officials Monday revealed a new run of an old model that predicts a stay-home order that lasts until the end of May would have little impact, or could even result in more deaths, than ending the restrictions on May 18.

The new prediction, labeled Scenario 5, would push the peak of the COVID-19 cases to July 27, compared to July 13 if the current order were to expire on May 18 as currently planned. The scenario also predicted between 10,000 and 36,000 people could die under a longer stay-home order, compared to between 9,000 and 36,000 under the shorter one.

Stefan Gildemeister, the state health economist, told reporters the new scenario had been “a bit of an afterthought” for them, but Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, asked MDH for the information so they posted the data publicly. Gildemeister said it helps illustrate that stay-home rules just delay the peak in COVID-19 cases, but generally would not reduce the number of people catching the disease.

Still, health officials expect to release an entirely new model this week to predict public health outcomes. That model will be peer-reviewed, and MDH commissioner Jan Malcolm said it would be based on “a number of new factors and updated data.”

Gildemeister said the new model would also examine the effect of extending the stay-home order until the end of May. Malcolm added the governor is considering a range of data and factors when deciding to extend his stay-home order, and isn’t solely relying on the modeling.

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