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The daily coronavirus update: 32 more deaths; Minneapolis to require face masks inside public settings

The 32 deaths reported by the Minnesota Department of Health Thursday represents the highest one-day death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic so far. MDH also reported an additional 530 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Minnesota.

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 21, 2020:

18,200 confirmed cases; 809 deaths 

State health officials reported another 32 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, Minnesota’s highest one-day death toll in the pandemic. So far, 809 Minnesotans have been killed by the disease. 

Twelve of the people whose deaths were reported Thursday were in their 90s, 12 were in their 80s, six were in their 70s, one was in their 60s and one was in their 50s. Of the 32 people who died, 28 were residents of long-term care facilities. So far, 663 of the 809 Minnesotans killed by COVID-19 were living in long-term care facilities.

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

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Thursday there have been 18,200 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, which is up 530 from the cases reported Wednesday. 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, 2,380 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 566 are currently in the hospital, 229 in intensive care. Of the 18,200 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 12,488 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are believed to have recovered.

A total of 173,556 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota, up 6,218 from Wednesday. MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state is averaging more than 6,400 tests over the last week. “That’s a significant improvement over the last couple of weeks but not as fast of growth as certainly we are aiming for in the coming weeks,” Malcolm said.

More information on cases can be found here.

Minneapolis orders face masks in public settings

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey signed an executive order Thursday that will require face masks inside public settings in the city starting May 26.

The new order will require cloth masks or coverings when people are in indoor gathering places such as stores, government buildings, schools and universities, recreational facilities and service centers. 

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The city joins states such as New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, Utah, Massachusetts, Michigan and Delaware requiring masks by the general public. Nearly every state recommends mask-wearing in public and most states have requirements for masks for workers and customers in businesses such as restaurants and salons or when riding transit. Metro Transit has such a rule and Minnesota is one of the states requiring masks in some reopened businesses

But Gov. Tim Walz said last week that he has resisted making mask wearing a statewide requirement. In conversations with states like Ohio that considered it and decided not to, Walz said he learned that it can become a political flashpoint, and that a recommendation could be more effective. “When they talked about this being helping your neighbor and making it easier to open more things, they got a higher compliance rate,” Walz said. 

He also said mandates have enforcement problems. “It’s impossible to enforce that,” he said. “We’re not having the State Patrol going on mask patrol.”

In a Thursday news conference, Frey lamented the notion that wearing masks has become politicized: I’m not gonna mask my frustration,” he said. “Watching out for the health of your city should not be an ideological issue. It should not be partisan. You don’t have a right to put other people at risk.

Unemployment spikes to 8.1 percent

Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate spiked to 8.1 percent in April, the Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday, an increase of 160,627 unemployed people from March to April.

The numbers represent the first full month of the impact COVID-19 has had on the state’s economy since restrictions on businesses started in mid-March. Minnesota lost 387,894 jobs year over year. 

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The hardest-hit sector was leisure and hospitality, which lost 148,593 jobs over the year, down 55.5 percent. But many sectors of the economy have seen staggering job losses in the wake of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-home order. 

The April unemployment rate does not show the full extent of the economic fallout. It’s based on a survey that ends mid-month, so it reflects the employment situation through the first part of April. Between March 16 and May 20, 695,156 people applied for unemployment insurance benefits.

State warns religious gatherings could put vulnerable at risk

State health officials on Thursday urged religious groups to comply with restrictions on in-person services, saying they can put the elderly or people with underlying conditions at risk. Minnesota’s Catholic Church and some Lutheran denominations said Wednesday they would defy rules limiting the number of people that can gather.

Walz’s latest guidance says bars and restaurants can serve customers outdoors at partial capacity — up to a maximum of 50 people — but churches can’t hold outdoor services with more than 10 participants.

Bernard A. Hebda, the Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said the Catholic Church would resume Mass next week at partial capacity. Hebda also criticized Walz for relaxing its rules for many businesses and activities, “many of which cannot be classified as essential as the life of faith,” but not religious services.

Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, said the Walz administration is hearing the frustration from churches and understands “the value and the strong desire for reconnection with our faith communities.” 

But she said faith gatherings can pose “special risks” to congregation members, and said the state is being cautious as cases and deaths continue to rise in Minnesota. 

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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