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The daily coronavirus update: five more deaths; state to allow some visitors for people in long-term care

MDH also said Friday there have been 40,767 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 604 from Thursday’s count and based on 19,204 new tests. 

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 10, 2020:

40,767 confirmed cases; 1,495 deaths 

Five more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, for a total of 1,495.

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Of the people whose deaths were announced Friday, two were in their 90s, two were in their 60s and one was in their 50s. One person whose death was announced Friday was a resident of a long-term care facility. Of the 1,495 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,166 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 Friday there have been 40,767 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 604 from Thursday’s count and is based on 19,204 new tests — the second-highest one day testing total reported by the state during the pandemic. While the last time Minnesota reported more than 600 confirmed cases in one day was June 5, only 11,041 tests were reported that day. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 4,329 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 227 are currently in the hospital, 124 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 40,767 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 35,442 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

State allows limited visits to long-term care residents

MDH released new guidance today that allows some family members or loved ones to visit people in long-term care facilities, the latest step to relax restrictions meant to curb spread of COVID-19 among the elderly.

The state now says long-term care facilities can designate an “essential caregiver” to help look after and socialize with a resident in person — partly to ease devastating loneliness that has plagued the isolated.

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Minnesota cut off visitors for months to long-term care facilities as infections raged. More recently, the state has allowed outdoor visits, or socializing through windows.

But as the state’s outbreak has advanced, and as long-term care facilities improve their infection control, Cheryl Hennen, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, told reporters that people are suffering and dying from loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Families are experiencing or seeing conditions deteriorate whether it’s by the phone or FaceTime (video chat) or through the window, they’re seeing loved ones become unresponsive unable to respond to basic conversations,” Hennen said. “We all agree visitation restrictions were implemented for good reason.”

Facilities who choose to have an essential caregiver program have until July 25 to draft policies to implement it, according to the state. An essential caregiver must wear personal protective equipment, at minimum eye protection and a face mask. More information can be found on the state’s website.

Free remdesivir shipments end

Jan Malcolm, MDH commissioner, said a program by the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences to distribute free supplies of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir has ended. It will be replaced by a “semi-commercial” model in which allocation and distribution of the drug will be handled by government officials, but hospitals will have to buy remdesivir if they want to use it, Malcolm said.

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The first shipment of the drug under the new process is expected next week. Supplies will still be sent to hospitals based on need, and Malcolm said hospitals are generally comfortable with current supplies. 

The Washington Post reported Gilead will charge hospitals $3,120 for a typical patient with private insurance.

Health officials discourage ‘serial’ COVID-19 testing

Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said the state has learned some people are seeking COVID-19 testing “every couple of days” and said “serial testing” is not recommended in most cases.

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Testing isn’t a substitute for proper social distancing and wearing masks, Ehresmann said. And it could be a drain on resources. Ehresmann said health systems are working to curb overly frequent testing.

“As much as we’re encouraging people to get tested when it’s appropriate, getting tested over and over again is not necessarily the appropriate use of that resource,” Ehresmann said.

Today on MinnPost

Around the web

  • Stuck at home because of COVID, the French discover France. A Wall Street Journal story on how the French suddenly have their country to themselves.
  • The World Health Organization is acknowledging the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air, a stance the WHO has resisted but adopted after pressure from hundreds of scientists, reports the Associated Press.
  • Florida set a coronavirus hospitalization record Friday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. And reported 92 deaths.

MDH’s coronavirus website:

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