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The daily coronavirus update: 33 more deaths; Walz ‘shocked and horrified’ by footage of George Floyd arrest

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Wednesday there have been 22,464 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 504 from Tuesday’s count, while a total of 216,532 COVID-19 tests have been completed, up 7,000 from Wednesday.

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 27, 2020:

22,464 confirmed cases; 33 deaths 

Thirty-three more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, state health officials reported Wednesday, for a total of 932. Of those who died, two people were age 100 or older, nine were in their 90s, 11 were in their 80s, six were in their 70s, four were in their 60s and one person was in their 30s.

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Twenty-seven of those who died were residents of long-term care facilities. So far, 759 of the 932 people to die in Minnesota from COVID-19 were residents of long-term care facilities. 

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

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Wednesday there have been 22,464 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 504 from Tuesday’s count. Because Minnesota only recently developed 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, 2,796 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 598 are currently in the hospital, 260 in intensive care. Of the 22,464 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 16,314 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are believed to have recovered.

A total of 216,532 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota, up 7,000 from Wednesday.

More information on cases can be found here.

State: Protesters should wear masks, socially distance

Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials applauded people who wore masks and did their best to socially distance at a gathering in Minneapolis on Tuesday to protest the killing of George Floyd. 

Floyd died shortly after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while Floyd yelled that he could not breathe. More than a thousand people showed up to the protest in south Minneapolis on Tuesday. Most were wearing masks, according to news reports. Police cleared the crowd late in the evening by firing tear gas and other projectiles after some protesters smashed windows of police cars and the Third Precinct building. The police response drew criticism, including from members of the Minneapolis City Council, though Mayor Jacob Frey later defended the police because he said the cars and the precinct had guns in them.

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While the governor has banned most gatherings with more than 10 people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Walz told reporters Wednesday the protest was a “pretty normal response” to video of Floyd being pressed to the ground by an officer, who other outlets have identified as Derek Chauvin.

“We certainly believe that there’s a right that people have to gather,” Walz said.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News/Pool
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Jan Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, said people should be aware the pandemic puts protesters at risk but also others who may interact with them later on, and she offered a “plea for people to be careful, to be mindful of those health guidelines and the importance of distancing and masking.”

Malcolm said the use of tear gas by police, which can make people cough and sneeze, “is certainly something to be watched” since COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness.

The governor’s administration also addressed Floyd’s death itself. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said an autopsy of Floyd hasn’t been completed yet and told reporters he was unsure if body camera footage of the incident would be released before the investigation into Floyd’s death is over. 

Harrington said he would talk with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office about releasing body camera tape because there has been a concern in the past that footage could influence a jury in a criminal trial. But Harrington said public interest can override that worry in some circumstances. 

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Harrington and Attorney General Keith Ellison pledged a fair and speedy investigation of Floyd’s death by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which will turn over that information to the Hennepin County Attorney to decide if any officers should be charged with crimes.

While Frey said Wednesday that the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck should face criminal charges, Walz said he couldn’t make such a statement in fear of tainting the state’s investigation with bias or “jeopardize a fair journey towards justice.” But Walz said the footage captured by bystanders left him “shocked and horrified.”

“Watching any of the video of what happened to George Floyd and then watching citizens come out last night, I too share that urge of just a primal scream of when you watch humanity get erased in front of you,” Walz said. “It is almost inexplicable how you respond.”

Walz makes ‘phase II’ guidelines official

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday signed the executive order outlining plans for phase II of his reopening plan for Minnesota, announced last week, including the opening of Minnesota restaurants, bars and hair salons June 1 (with restrictions — you can read all about it here).

Gov. Tim Walz
Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News/Pool
Gov. Tim Walz
Basically, bars and restaurants can seat up to 50 patrons outdoors with social distancing. Employees are required to wear masks, patrons are strongly encouraged to wear them, and reservations are required. (Is this for contact tracing? Depends who you ask.) 

Salons and barbershops can open at 25 percent capacity, no walk-ins allowed. Employees and customers are required to wear masks.

The order specifies that in the event of inclement weather, restaurant patrons can go inside to package up food and pay their bills but must social distance and exit quickly. It’s also OK to shelter indoors in the event of severe weather.

Here’s the order in full and here’s a breakdown of the phased reopening.

Moving COVID-19 patients back to long-term care

Asked whether it’s wise to transfer people still infected with COVID-19 from hospitals to long-term care facilities, Malcolm said Wednesday that this continues to be part of the state’s response plan for people who no longer need hospital care. 

But the issue of transferring people back to long-term care is complex, Walz said: For many, long-term care facilities are home. But it’s also a place where COVID-19 related deaths have been concentrated in Minnesota.

“This was federal guidance, this was what everyone was doing, this was not a mistake, this wasn’t like no one thought about this,” Walz said.

Transferring people out of the hospital and back to long-term care is partly a matter of patients’ own safety, Malcolm said, since health-care-acquired infections can further threaten their health or lives. It’s also a matter of freeing up acute care capacity.

She said MDH has been in communication with long-term care facilities on preparedness and infection control plans.

“I think we’re making careful decisions in that regard, but it is a fair question and something that we’re going to be revisiting and having more conversations about,” she said. 

Today on MinnPost

Around the web

  • Only about half of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • Frustrated and struggling, New Yorkers contemplate abandoning the city they love. Story from the Washington Post on how COVID-19 has driven thousands from NYC.

MDH’s coronavirus website:

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