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The daily coronavirus update: 17 more deaths; nurses question resumption of elective procedures in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health also reported Tuesday 665 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total known count to 17,029.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

For the foreseeable future, MinnPost will be providing daily updates on coronavirus in Minnesota, published following the press phone call with members of the Walz administration each afternoon.

Here are the latest updates from May 19, 2020:

17,029 confirmed cases; 748 deaths 

Another 17 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, state health officials reported Tuesday, for a total of 748.

Among the dead were nine residents of Hennepin County, two residents of Ramsey County, two residents of Dakota County, and one resident of each of the following counties: Clay, Itasca, Kanabec and Olmsted.

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One person who died was age older than 100, three people were in their 90s, four were in their 80s, three were in their 70s and six were in their 60s.

Thirteen of those who died were residents of long-term care facilities. So far, 608 of 748 people who died lived in long-term care facilities.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 665 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total known count to 17,029. Because Minnesota is only now developing the capacity to test everybody with symptoms, the number of cases of the virus is assumed to be significantly higher. 

Since the start of the outbreak, 2,221 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 545 are currently in the hospital, 229 in intensive care. MDH reported 57 more people in the hospital than on Monday, the largest one-day jump so far in the outbreak. Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said there was a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases last week, and some of those who are sick could be experiencing more severe symptoms.

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Of the 17,029 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 11,540 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are believed to have recovered.

A total of 161,835 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota, an increase of 5,229 from the total reported Monday.

More information on cases can be found here.

Nurses say hospitals rationing PPE

Minnesota nurses questioned the wisdom of resuming elective procedures in Minnesota when they say they’re still rationing and reusing personal protective equipment, according to testimony in a Minnesota House committee Tuesday.

Gov. Tim Walz announced earlier this month that elective procedures could resume if health care providers had plans to maintain adequate levels of personal protective equipment.

Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis said Tuesday that hospitals have maintained their inventories of personal protective equipment. They are asked to buy equipment through their normal supply chains, but can get supplies from the state stockpile when they have a four to seven days’ store of equipment and are unable to re-supply through traditional means. 

“What they have the ability to do is provide it to the nurses as needed and then requisition the state as they reach low levels,” Roberts-Davis said.

But concern remains among nurses that hospitals are rationing equipment for fear of short supply. The Centers for Disease Control put out guidance for the conservation of personal protective equipment in situations where it is not available at normal levels that may be in use in some health care settings. Hospitals set their own guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment.

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A ‘concerning decline’ in vaccinations

Ehresmann told reporters Tuesday that fewer children are being vaccinated because families are delaying routine check-ups, known as “well-child” visits. State officials have urged families to continue these exams, which can prevent other diseases or catch illness early. Ehresmann said there has been a “concerning decline in the recommended childhood vaccinations.”

“We want to make sure that even as we are working hard to address COVID-19 that we’re not missing the opportunity to prevent those diseases that we know are deadly but for which we currently have vaccines,” Ehresmann said.

State closes on COVID-19 morgue location

Department of Administration Commissioner Roberts-Davis also told reporters the state closed a $5.4 million deal on a building that can temporarily store bodies of people killed by COVID-19 should a spike in deaths overwhelm current facilities.

The building, a former grocery distribution warehouse on L’Orient Avenue in St. Paul, is a 71,000 square foot space. Roberts-Davis said the state budgeted $6.9 million in total to buy the building and then make upgrades to it.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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