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The daily coronavirus update: 594 new cases in Minnesota as testing ramps up

Of the 28 deaths reported Friday, 24 were residents of long-term care. So far, 80 percent of those who have died of COVID-19 in Minnesota were living in long-term care.

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 1, 2020:

5,730 confirmed cases; 371 deaths 

Another 28 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, state health officials said Friday, bringing total deaths in the state to 371. The 28 deaths match the state’s highest one-day death total from coronavirus.

Of the deaths announced Friday, 18 lived in Hennepin County, four lived in Ramsey County, two lived in Olmsted County, and there was one death among residents of the following counties: Anoka, Benton, Dakota and Washington.

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Six people who died were in their 90s, 10 were in their 80s, five were in their 70s, four were in their 60s and three were in their 50s.

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

The Minnesota Department of Health also said Friday there have been 5,730 total positive tests, up 594 from Thursday’s count. That’s by far the highest number of lab-confirmed cases in a single day, though known cases are expected to rise because the state is testing far more people.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
For most of the outbreak, Minnesota has not had the capacity to test everybody with symptoms, so not everybody who had the disease was counted by state officials. But the state — in partnership with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota — has recently been ramping up its capabilities, with the goal eventually testing as many as 20,000 Minnesotans per day. 

The state reported 4,553 tests Friday, up from 2,239 the previous Friday. A total of 74,829 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota.

Jan Malcolm, MDH commissioner, said the state expects to get 47,000 nasal swabs per week through a “FEMA channel,” which will mean Minnesota will receive about 190,000 swabs in the month of May, helping to solidify supplies of testing equipment.

Since the start of the outbreak, 1,096 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 369 are currently in the hospital, 118 in intensive care. Of the 5,730 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 2,282 no longer need to be isolated, which means they are considered to have recovered or have died.

More information on cases can be found here.

Nearly 80 percent of deaths in long-term care

Of the 28 deaths reported Friday, 24 were residents of long-term care. So far, 295 of the 371 people who have died of COVID-19 in Minnesota were living in long-term care.

There are 244 long-term care facilities in Minnesota with known cases. Of those, 99 facilities have one case and 36 have two cases. There are 21 facilities with 20 or more known cases. One long-term care operation has 157 cases, according to a slideshow shared with a Senate committee on Friday.

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MDH data from Thursday says just 1.7 percent of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but who aren’t residents of long-term care, have died of coronavirus. But 28.1 percent of people in long-term care facilities with known cases of COVID-19 have died. 

Long-term care residents who are older than 80 with known COVID-19 cases have died 34 percent of the time compared to an 18 percent death rate for people not in assisted living.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
People in long-term care are considered at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19 because most are elderly and have underlying conditions. The close quarters among residents and staff at the facilities also speeds transmission.

Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said death rates in long-term care are also because the elderly in such facilities are often in worse health than people of the same age who aren’t in assisted living. Some people in long-term care also have do-not-resuscitate orders, which influences health outcomes.

On Wednesday, St. Therese nursing home in New Hope released a statement saying that 47 people have died at the 258-bed facility since late March. The state has assigned case managers to each long-term care facility with an outbreak and MDH has developed guidelines for handling COVID-19. 

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MDH and the State Emergency Operations Center have also been working on long-term plans, including offering potential staffing help and building a “crisis team” to help facilities “at risk of being overwhelmed,” says the slideshow prepared by the Health Department

Malcolm said “given that we know this is going to be with us for a while,” they’re hoping to build “more resilience for the longer haul here.”

Crisis counseling help on the way

Minnesota is expecting to be approved soon for FEMA funding for crisis counseling assistance for those impacted by stress and loss from COVID-19.

Director Joe Kelly
Director Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly, the director of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the state made the request shortly after the federal agency approved its request for a disaster declaration. Now, one month later, the request is in final stages of review.

The program will use community-based counseling services, be free and be managed by the state Department of Human Services.

“It supports short-term interventions to help us all understand our current situation and our reactions to it,” Kelly said. “Mitigating stress, reviewing recovery options, promoting the development and use of coping strategies and encouraging us all to make connections with people and agencies who can be helpful to us.

“I think at this point in the pandemic, that’s something we can all relate to,” Kelly said. “I’d be surprised to meet someone who isn’t feeling some of those effects.”

Walz: Food trucks can serve truckers

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Friday that allows food trucks to serve at six highway rest stops throughout the state. The order says current health restrictions have limited fresh food options for truckers, who are essential workers and transport medicine, food, household supplies and personal protective equipment. 

Walz’s order says food trucks help “ensure that commercial truck drivers have easy and reliable access to nutritious and freshly prepared meals.”

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