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The daily coronavirus update: 571 new cases; Walz bars debt collectors from taking COVID-19 relief funds

There were also nine deaths announced Monday, for a total of 428.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

Correction: This post has been updated to correct the total number of COVID-19 tests completed in Minnesota. It is 85,941.

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 4, 2020:

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7,234 confirmed cases; 428 deaths

Nine more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, for a total of 428.

Of the deaths announced Monday, two were of people in their nineties, three in their eighties, one in their seventies, one in their sixties and two in their fifties. Seven were Hennepin County residents and two were Stearns County residents.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Evan Frost/MPR/Pool
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
A person in their forties was announced among the deaths Sunday, when there was no press briefing. Asked for more information about the case Monday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the person had no known underlying conditions.

“[It’s] Another painful lesson about how this disease affects people differently. None of us who don’t think we have the known list of preexisting conditions can necessarily think we are immune from harmful effects,” she said.

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

MDH also said Monday there have been 7,234 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 571 from Sunday’s count. 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.

The number of positives is expected to increase significantly as Minnesota begins to test more people under an initiative announced last week 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.

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“As we test more we will find more,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “We’re expecting to see those numbers on both fronts continue to rise, the testing volumes and the cases that are discovered as a result.”

Since the start of the outbreak, 1,271 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 396 are currently in the hospital, 166 in intensive care. Of the  7,234 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 4,212 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are considered to have recovered or have died.

A total of 85,941 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota.

More information on cases can be found here.

Walz prevents debt collection on COVID-19 relief funds

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Monday that temporarily prevents creditors and debt collectors from taking money meant to offset economic harms of COVID-19, including direct stimulus payments that were part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
Gov. Tim Walz
Congress and President Donald Trump authorized $1,200 for most Americans in March, including another $500 for each eligible child. Walz said the COVID-19 relief money is meant to help pay for immediate services like rent and food, not debts. The restrictions exempt child support and other “domestic support obligations,” according to the executive order.

The rules also expire once the governor’s peacetime emergency ends. “This is not to say these debts were not legitimate debts,” Walz said. “But what it’s saying is now is not the time to collect from the most vulnerable.”

The executive order drew frustration from some Republicans as the GOP continues a push to make the governor relinquish emergency powers and involve the Legislature more in how Minnesota responds to COVID-19. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, introduced a similar debt collection bill in late April that has not gained traction at the Capitol.

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“This bill could have been passed by the legislature and signed into law, rather than relying on unilateral action from the governor,” Franson said in a written statement. “The legislature is listening and responding to the people, and it is time to bring the legislative branch back on equal footing with the executive.”

MDH: Stay close to home — even for fishing opener

Malcolm asked Minnesotans to keep up social distancing — even with fishing opener coming up next weekend. It’s OK to enjoy the outdoors, she said, but asked Minnesotans to do so with minimal travel.

“We have to keep on keeping these good behaviors not only when we’re going to work and engaging in economic activity but when we’re walking through our neighborhood or  going to the hardware store or the grocery store,” she said.

Kids’ role in transmission still unclear

There are still very few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in kids. As of Monday, 1 percent of confirmed Minnesota cases were in kids ages 0 to 5, while 4 percent were in those between ages 6 and 19.

“We’re still seeing a very low incidence of illness among kids but it’s still not as clear as we would like it to be what their role might be in transmission,” Malcolm said — that includes what their role might be in asymptomatic transmission which seems to be a big piece of how COVID-19 spreads.

Walz said Monday understanding more about transmission among kids would help make decisions about things like summer camps and schools. As of now, there’s little Minnesota-specific information.

Announcement on elective procedures forthcoming

As he hinted at last week, Walz is expected to announce a loosening of restrictions on some elective procedures — non-critical medical procedures such as some surgeries and dental procedures — banned under a previous executive order designed to preserve personal protective equipment for COVID-19 purposes this week. On Monday, he said that announcement would come Tuesday.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

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