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The daily coronavirus update: Announcement on mask mandate expected soon

Officials said the decision would come in the next day or two. Also,the Minnesota Department of Health announced 3 more deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota and that the statewide total for positive cases had risen to 47,457 since the start of the outbreak.

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Sunday through Friday. The information is published following a press phone call with members of the Walz administration or after the release of daily COVID-19 figures by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Here are the latest updates from July 21:

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47,457 confirmed cases; 1,548 deaths

Three more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 1,548.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Tuesday, one was in their 90s, one was in their 80s and one was in their 30s. One of the 3 deaths announced Tuesday was of a resident of a long-term care facility. Of the 1,548 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,189 have been among residents of long-term care.

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

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 47,457 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 350 from Monday’s count and is based on 9,602 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 4,723 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 266 are currently in the hospital, 112 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 47,457 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 41,511 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

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Mask mandate announcement expected this week

Gov. Tim Walz said he would make an announcement on a mask mandate in the next day or two — meaning he could require Minnesotans to wear masks in certain situations, such as inside businesses.

Even amid emerging evidence that masks effectively reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, the question of whether to mandate them remains political. 

Still, in recent days and weeks, Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, and Kay Ivey of Alabama have implemented some form of mask mandate. On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted a picture of himself wearing one, calling it “Patriotic” to wear one when you can’t socially distance.

Walz suggested he would favor a statewide approach over a regional one because people travel across regional lines.

Walz administration outlines progress on long-term care strategy

In a press conference Tuesday, the Walz administration announced progress has been made to keep long-term care residents safer amid COVID-19.

In May, the administration announced a five-point plan with staffing, testing, personal protective equipment and other goals aimed at stemming infections in long-term care.

On Tuesday, the administration announced it had made progress toward those goals, which officials said has helped reduce cases and deaths due to COVID-19 among the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the number of facilities with new outbreaks — defined as one or more staff member or resident testing positive — has slowed, from an average of 23 new facilities per day in early May, to seven mid-June and six the week of July 13.

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Deaths  in long-term care, “though still unacceptably high,” according to a press release, have declined from 137 the third week of May to 13 the third week of July.

Malcolm attributed some of those decreases to better infection control, more readily available personal protective equipment and better isolation of residents who test positive, enabled by an ability to do widespread testing.

Despite the decrease in deaths, Malcolm warned that future cases in long-term care are inevitable given levels of community spread of the virus, and it’s important for facilities to be ready for them.

77 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have been in long-term care facilities. National lists put Minnesota’s share of long-term care deaths higher than most other states’. State officials attribute that to a broader definition of long-term care: Minnesota includes everything from nursing homes to assisted living and group homes in its definition.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said when you compare skilled nursing only, which is a more consistent definition, Minnesota falls in the middle of the pack in terms of deaths per capita, with a death rate less than half the national average.

Still, it remains unclear why Minnesota’s overall death toll of 1,548 is higher than some other states, like similarly-sized Wisconsin, where there have been 855 deaths to-date.

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  • As always, a look at the numbers on the MinnPost COVID-19 dashboard.

Around the web

MDH’s coronavirus website:

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