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The daily coronavirus update: 9 more deaths; state announces free testing program

The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 909 additional cases Wednesday, based on 19,743 new tests.

COVID-19
COVID-19
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 September 17, 2020:

86,722 confirmed cases; 1,942 deaths 

Nine more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday, for a total of 1,942.

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Of the people whose deaths were announced Thursday, five were in their 90s, one was in their 80s, one was in their 70s, one was in their 60s and one was in their 40s. Six of the nine deaths announced Thursday were among residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 1,942 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,408 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 Thursday there have been 86,722 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 909 from Wednesday’s count and is based on 19,743 new tests. The seven-day positivity average, which lags by a week, is 4.7 percent. For days, the rate has been below a 5-percent threshold that health officials say is a concerning sign of disease spread.

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

Since the start of the outbreak, 7,050 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 242 are currently in the hospital, 132 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 86,722 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 79,878 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

State announces four-week free testing push

State health officials said Thursday they plan to offer free COVID-19 testing over the next four weeks, starting Sept. 23 in Grand Rapids, Pine City and Waseca. Anyone can get tested, regardless of whether they have coronavirus symptoms or health insurance.

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In a news release, MDH said the testing would help the state identify hot spots and disease clusters, while helping to increase testing resources across the state and provide a free option for those who may have trouble otherwise getting tested.

The nasal-swab tests will be processed either by the Mayo Clinic or the University of Minnesota. MDH said the National Guard will be activated to provide staff and logistical help.

Dan Huff, an MDH assistant commissioner for health protection, said the testing push is part to bridge a gap before mid-October when the state plans to open 10 semi-permanent testing sites around the state. 

Minnesota health officials said they are concerned about a level of COVID-19 transmission they view as stable, but high, and Huff said the state is also “nervously watching” increasing case counts in neighboring states. One focus of the four-week testing push will be communities on Minnesota’s border. 

The nonpartisan COVID-19 tracking website COVID Exit Strategy currently rates Minnesota as “trending poorly” but counts Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota as experiencing “uncontrolled spread.”

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The testing locations for future weeks are still being determined.

Here is the testing calendar so far, according to MDH:

Sept. 23
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Itasca County Fairgrounds
1336 Fairgrounds Road, Grand Rapids
To register: Itasca County Community COVID-19 Testing: Schedule Appointment

Sept. 23-24
12-6 p.m.
Pine City Armory
1305 Main Street, Pine City
To register: Pine City Community Testing: Schedule Appointment

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Sept. 23-24
12-6 p.m.
Waseca High School Gym
1717 2nd Street Northwest, Waseca
To register: Waseca Community Testing: Schedule Appointment

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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