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The daily coronavirus update: Lowest number of new reported deaths since April

The Health Department said Monday there have been 30,693 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 222 from Sunday’s count.

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 June 15, 2020:

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30,693 confirmed cases; 1,304 deaths

Another six Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, the lowest one-day death count since mid-April. The state’s death toll from the pandemic is now 1,304.

Of the deaths announced Monday were two people in their 80s, two people in their 70s and two people in their 60s. Four of the six people who died were residents of long-term care facilities, and 1,034 of the 1,304 people who have died so far in the outbreak were residents of long-term care facilities.

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

MDH also said Monday there have been 30,693 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, out of 422,922 reported tests. The number of positives is up 222 from Sunday’s count. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 3,630 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 353 are currently in the hospital, 186 in intensive care. The number of people in the ICU has steadily declined since the beginning of June. ICU use peaked at 263 on May 31.  You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 30,693 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 26,609 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

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Declining numbers — with an asterisk

The number of new COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota and the number of new known positive cases have declined for three consecutive days, a trend health officials say is promising, especially as the state tests far more people than it did months ago.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
Evan Frost/MPR/Pool
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm
But the data come with an asterisk: MDH commissioner Jan Malcolm said a computer error led the state to report only some of the tests performed yesterday, and so there are likely more people who tested positive for COVID-19. MDH reported only 5,031 COVID-19 tests Monday, while the agency reported 9,658 tests on Sunday.

And while Minnesota has so far escaped a new spike in COVID-19 as it has relaxed restrictions on businesses like restaurants, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said it is still too early to gauge the full effect of protests over the killing of George Floyd and newly legal social gatherings. Minnesota relaxed many rules on June 1, and went further to ease restrictions June 10. MDH says a 21-day window is needed to best measure impact.

Some states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida, have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases lately, which public health officials attribute to a reopening of public life.

“We’re pleased when we have lower numbers, we’re pleased that our health care system has a chance to breathe and catch up,” Ehresmann said. “But I think it’s too early to look upon Texas and Arizona and say, ‘Oh, we dodged that bullet.’”

‘Window visits’ at long-term care facilities

MDH has released new guidance on how to safely visit residents of long-term care facilities. Indoor and outdoor visits are not allowed, though the agency says it’s OK to talk to people through a window.

The state says the window can be open, though visitors should stay 3 feet away and wear a cloth mask. Guidance also says people should set up visits in advance, particularly to meet with someone who lives above ground level and will need to use another window to socialize.

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Malcolm said the state is considering guidance on outdoor visits, though she said the agency is trying to protect people who are elderly and have underlying health conditions and are more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19.

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Karin Housley
The “window visit” guidance was met with frustration from Republican Sen. Karin Housley, who chairs the Senate’s Family Care and Aging Committee. Housley, a critic of how MDH has handled a pandemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in the state’s long-term care facilities, said the guidelines do not go “nearly far enough” for people in long-term care facilities that have been living in isolation for four months. Housley said the state has not adequately prioritized keeping seniors safe from the disease through testing and other efforts while at the same time cutting them off from family and not offering information on how and when they could visit with others.

“Unfortunately, Minnesotans still have no clarity about when they might be able to spend time with their loved ones — many of whom suffer from physical or mental conditions that make window visits nearly impossible,” Housley said in a prepared statement.

Today on MinnPost

Around the web

  • A grim blame game with partisan overtones is breaking out over COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents, the Associated Press reports.
  • Here’s an online tracker made by public health experts for how states are responding to COVID-19 and reopening their economies, and their progress on measures like declining cases and ICU availability.

MDH’s coronavirus website:

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