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The daily coronavirus update: 19 more deaths; mass testing planned in Mower County

COVID-19
Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert
COVID-19

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 June 18, 2020:

31,675 confirmed cases; 19 deaths

Another 19 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday, for a total of 1,344. 

Of the deaths announced Thursday, one person was over 100 years old, three people were in their 90s, four people were in their 80s, five people were in their 70s, four people were in their 60s, one person was in their 50s and one person was in their 30s.

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
On a press call Thursday, MDH’s infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann, addressed the death of the youngest person, an individual in their 30s with no underlying conditions, and asked young people to continue to avoid parties and continue wearing masks. Ehresmann said she has received notice of large groups of young people gathering without social distancing.

Thirteen of the 19 people whose deaths were announced Thursday were residents of long-term care facilities. The other six people lived in a private residence.

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

MDH also said Thursday there have been 31,675 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of positives is up 379 from Wednesday’s count and is based on 12,465 new tests. This is the greatest increase in a week, excluding Wednesday’s uptick in cases due to a backlog in testing, said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm, but follows a pattern the department has seen for about a month.

You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 3,718 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 345 are currently in the hospital, 171 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 31,675 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 27,566 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

Mass testing planned after uptick in Mower County

Mower County residents with and without COVID-19 symptoms can get tested in Austin this weekend. This follows MDH’s announcement Wednesday that the county has the second-highest incidence of cases in the state. 

Testing will take place at the Mower County Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. County residents can schedule an appointment online to avoid lines.

Age-adjusted data provides more accurate look at disparities

Health officials said Thursday that MDH will begin regularly releasing cases by race and ethnicity adjusted by age. Previous data showed stark disparities when it comes to COVID-19. For example, Black Minnesotans make up about 7 percent of the population, but 22 percent of cases.

However, those numbers don’t account for sometimes vast differences in age groups that sometimes hide underlying risk among populations. For example, white Minnesotans are older, on average, than Minnesotans from other racial and ethnic groups, but they have fewer underlying health conditions, on the whole, that put them at higher risk of COVID-19.

New data released this week adjust for differences in age across populations, offering a more accurate picture of racial disparities.

Adjusting for age, the rate of hospitalizations by race or ethnicity per 100,000 people in Minnesota results in 146 cases among Asians and 247 cases among Hispanics – which Ehresmann notes is “much higher” than before the adjustments. The hospitalization rate for whites is 19 per 100,000 residents.

Additionally, there are significant disparities in deaths between Black and white Minnesotans. The age-adjusted rates show 70 deaths per 100,000 people for Black Minnesotans, compared to 20 per 100,000 residents for whites. 

Outdoor visits OK’d at long-term care facilities – with restrictions

MDH released guidelines late Wednesday that long-term care facilities must follow to begin allowing residents to meet visitors outside. 

The long-term care facilities, which include assisted living and nursing homes, need to establish a schedule with visiting hours and a system to screen visitors for symptoms of COVID-19 outside the building. Visitors and residents must wear masks at all times if they are able to. 

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Senate candidate Karin Housley
Outdoor spaces for visitation must allow for social distancing between residents and visitors, keeping them six feet apart. Hand sanitizer must be available and signs that remind visitors of proper usage should be on display. 

Republican Sen. Karin Housley, who chairs the Senate’s Family Care and Aging Committee, said she was pleased with MDH’s latest action. Housley has criticized MDH during the pandemic for not better balancing the need to keep residents safe with helping seniors who are struggling with being separated from family.

However, Housley said she was hoping to see a plan that would allow for in-person visits, citing four states that have begun allowing indoor visits or will soon.

“I remain deeply concerned about individuals whose health prevents them from being moved outdoors and I urge the department to consider implementing guidance for indoor visits, perhaps for end-of-life and other compassionate means,” said Housley in a prepared statement.

K-12 schools receive guidance on fall planning

The Minnesota Department of Education released a guide to help schools plan for fall, which accounts for three scenarios: in-person learning for all students, hybrid learning with social distancing and distance learning only. 

MDE said it is possible that the format may need to change mid-year.

You can find more information about the department’s direction schools here.

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MDH’s coronavirus website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

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

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