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The daily coronavirus update: health advisory about severe illness among children; BWCA to open for camping

The Health Department also announced 20 more deaths and 805 new cases of COVID-19 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 15, 2020:

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14,240 confirmed cases; 683 deaths

Twenty more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 683.

The people whose deaths were announced Friday were residents of Hennepin County (8), Ramsey County (5), Anoka County (3), Itasca County (2), Carver County (1) and Dakota County (1).

One of the deceased was a person over age 100, three were in their nineties, 10 were in their eighties, one was in their seventies, four were in their sixties and one was in their fifties. Seventeen of the 20 were residents of long-term care.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests. Nine Minnesotans are presumed to have died of COVID-19, which means the virus is listed as their cause of death but it was not lab-confirmed.

MDH also said Friday there have been 14,240 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 805 from Thursday’s  count. Because Minnesota is only now developing the capacity to test everybody with symptoms, the actual number of the disease is assumed to be significantly higher.

Since the start of the outbreak, 1,985 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 498 are currently in the hospital, 200 in intensive care. Of the 14,240 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 8,820 no longer need to be isolated , which means they are believed to have recovered.

A total of 134,669 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Minnesota.

More information on cases can be found here.

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MDH issues health alert on severe illness seen in children

MDH has issued a health advisory for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. The condition is a severe illness seen in some children in Europe and New York that can affect the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, gastrointestinal and neurological systems and may be connected to COVID-19. The condition is thought to be rare, but can be life-threatening.

“We sent the health alert out because we have heard that there may be some cases in Minnesota and we would like to get the reports and be able to find out if it is occurring and how frequently it is occurring,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist.

Symptoms include fever, signs of inflammation, abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, red cracked lips or red tongue, a rash, swollen hands and feet, and red eyes. Some of the symptoms are similar to Kawasaki disease. These symptoms can present weeks later than COVID-19-related symptoms.

Twenty-seven Minnesotans ages birth to 19 have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and none have died.

BWCA to open for camping, but not state parks

The U.S. Forest Service said Friday they will allow overnight camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness starting Monday, when Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-home order expires.

Walz issued a new executive order Wednesday that says remote and dispersed camping is allowed as long as people camp only with members of their households. The Forest Service had opened the BWCA for day-use earlier in May. For more information on how to safely book a permit, visit the BWCA’s website.

The state Department of Natural Resources said Friday it will extend its closure of camping, lodging and rental facilities in state parks and state forest campgrounds until May 31, though parks are open for day use. Dispersed camping in state forests is allowed beginning May 18, and no reservations are required.

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Rochester house party spread COVID-19

Seventeen people connected to a house party in Rochester held mid-April have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an Olmsted County Public Health press release.

“These individuals brought the virus to other households and workplaces, however no further transmission has occurred,” according to the release. The county says the incident underscores the need to continue physical distancing.

“With Minnesota’s Stay At Home restrictions loosening on Monday, this is a reminder that we all need to practice good hand hygiene, avoid large gatherings, stay home when feeling ill, continue to physically distance ourselves when in public settings, and wear masks to protect others – this shows we care about our communities’ health and safety,” the statement says.

MDH: Enjoy the weather, but keep up distancing

Kris Ehresmann, MDH infectious disease director, urged Minnesotans to wear cloth masks in public and stay six feet apart from others, even after the stay-home restrictions lift on Monday. COVID-19 cases are still increasing and Ehresmann said that makes adhering to social distancing guidelines important.

People are now allowed to gather in groups of up to 10, though Ehresmann said people should remain six feet apart even while gathering. She also clarified that visiting friends or family at long-term care facilities will remain banned as the state tries to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

“We want you to enjoy the weather, we want you to look forward to Monday,” Ehresmann said. “But we want you to stay six feet apart, wear a cloth mask when you’re outside your home and don’t gather in groups larger than 10.”

Health officials say full stadiums unlikely this year

MDH commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Friday she has concerns about the idea of sports teams flying around the country while COVID-19 cases are rising and said if leagues restart, they will likely have to play without packed crowds for all of 2020.

“I don’t, sadly, envision seeing full stadiums any time this year,” Malcolm said.

The comments came in response to a question about Major League Baseball’s plan for frequent testing of players, which is part of the league’s strategy to start play and avoid shutting down if one player or staff member contracts COVID-19.

Malcolm said she expects testing capacity to grow enough for the state to handle a high volume of tests from sports leagues — and other large employers. But Malcolm said frequent travel is not something the “rest of the economy” is prepared to do and there is a national emphasis still on minimizing travel while COVID-19 cases increase across the country.

Malcolm added there is good reason to believe the U.S. will be dealing with waves or sustained spread of COVID-19 for a long time, which is part of why packed stadiums are unlikely in the near future. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC Sports recently that it’s feasible, but not guaranteed, the NFL could play in empty stadiums this fall.

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