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The daily coronavirus update: 24 more deaths; Walz to announce plans for stay-at-home order

Gov. Tim Walz plans to give a 6 p.m. speech from the governor’s mansion Wednesday to detail whether he will extend or relax his stay-home order that is set to expire May 18.

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 13, 2020:

12,917 confirmed cases; 638 deaths 

Another 24 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, state health officials said Wednesday, bringing the pandemic death toll to 638. 

Of those who died, 13 were residents of Hennepin County, six lived in Ramsey County, and two lived in Anoka County. One person died in each of Stearns and Washington counties, and one person’s residence was unknown.

One person who died was age 100 or older, while three people were in their 90s, 10 were in their 80s, five were in their 70s, three were in their 60s, one person was in their 30s and one person’s age was unknown.

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Seventeen of the 24 deaths reported Wednesday were among residents of long-term care facilities. So far, 517 of the 638 people who have died of COVID-19 in Minnesota were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests. But for the first time, the state is reporting deaths likely due to COVID-19, in which a person has COVID-19 listed on a death certificate but doesn’t have a documented positive test. So far, there are nine probable COVID-19 deaths.

The Minnesota Department of Health has also changed the way it reports positive cases. It now posts cases based on the date a test specimen was collected, not the date MDH confirmed the case was positive. 

The state website now says there have been 12,917 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota through May 11. On Tuesday, the state reported 12,494 known cases under the older reporting system.

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Because Minnesota is only now developing the capacity to test everybody with symptoms, the number of confirmed cases of the virus is assumed to be significantly higher. 

Since the start of the outbreak, 1,851 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 494 are currently in the hospital, 199 in intensive care. Of the 12,917 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 8,787 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are believed to have recovered or have died.

A total of 122,035 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota, an increase of 3,517 from Tuesday.

More information on cases can be found here.

Walz to announce plans for stay-home order

Gov. Tim Walz plans to give a 6 p.m. speech from the governor’s mansion Wednesday to detail whether he will extend or relax his stay-home order that is set to expire May 18. Walz has twice extended the order, saying Minnesota needed to further build up hospital capacity, stores of personal protective equipment for workers and other health care infrastructure to handle the pandemic.

The governor has faced growing pressure from Republicans to drop the stay-home restrictions and relinquish emergency powers he has exercised. Unemployment has soared since restrictions on business and public life began, with more than 650,000 people having applied for unemployment insurance benefits since March 16. 

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has said House GOP lawmakers won’t support a bonding bill — in which the state borrows money for public construction projects — unless Walz lets his declaration of a peacetime emergency expire and further involves the Legislature.

Walz is expected to extend the emergency, continuing his expanded power, but the governor’s office has not said whether the stay-home rules will continue. His decision will be based on several factors, including new state modeling released Wednesday morning on how different stay-home policies will affect the course of the pandemic.

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State officials believe they have enough intensive care capacity and equipment like ventilators to treat all hospitalized patients during a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Minnesota meets some, but not all of the federal guidelines laid out by the Trump administration for re-opening the economy, which include a downward trajectory of cases within a 14-day period. 

The state also arguably can’t meet some “core state preparedness responsibilities” laid out by Trump’s government, such as the ability to trace contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19. The state Health Department has been doing some contact tracing but is still working to significantly ramp up those efforts to meet demand.

Trump’s “Phase One” reopening plan for states allows gyms, dine-in restaurant service, and large venues like sports arenas to operate under “strict physical distancing protocols.”

At the same time, a new model released by the state Wednesday predicts that while extending the stay-home order until June would delay the peak of the pandemic, it may not significantly change the number of people who may die from COVID-19. (Both scenarios assume the stay-home order is followed by three weeks of some distancing, particularly for vulnerable people.) The same is generally true for waiting to lift the stay-home order until Minnesota meets all federal guidelines.

Stay tuned for more MinnPost coverage of the governor’s announcement Wednesday evening. You can stream Walz’s speech on his YouTube page.

New model shows effect of a longer stay-home order

MDH released a new model Wednesday that shows a longer stay-home policy could modestly reduce COVID-19 deaths and that the best-case scenario for widely available case testing and isolation of sick people could further prevent deaths.

The state tested a range of new scenarios, from a stay-home order until the end of May to a stay-home order that remains until Minnesota meets federal guidelines and implements known treatments, like Remdesivir. All of the scenarios project upwards of 22,000 deaths through the course of the pandemic, with a margin of error on either side, and more than 1,300 deaths by the end of May. 

This is the third model built by the state and the University of Minnesota. Health officials say they believe it to be more accurate than past iterations of the model. MinnPost will have a more expansive breakdown of what the model says — and doesn’t say — this afternoon.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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