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The daily coronavirus update: Health Department urges household-only Thanksgiving celebrations

The Minnesota Department of Health also announced on Monday that 12 more Minnesotans with COVID-19 had died.

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 November 16, 2020:

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231,018 cases; 2,917 deaths

Twelve more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, for a total of 2,917.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Monday, two were in their 60s, three were in their 70s, six were in their 80s and one was in their 90s. Four of the 12 people whose deaths announced Monday were residents of long-term care facilities.

MDH also said Monday there have been 231,018 total cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. That number is up 7,437 from the total announced on Sunday and is based on 51,207 new tests. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Hospital numbers continue a precipitous rise. The most recent data available show 324 Minnesotans are hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, up from 240 a week prior, and 1,234 are in the hospital with COVID-19 not in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

More information on cases can be found here.

Officials and health care workers plead with Minnesotans to heed precautions

As pharmaceutical company Moderna on Monday became the second in recent weeks to announce it believes it could have a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine, which may be available in a matter of months, Minnesota officials urged state residents to slow the spread of the virus so as not to further burden the strained health care system.

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Gov. Tim Walz hinted at more restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus to come. He said hospitals are already stretched thin, with many health care workers out due to illness or quarantine. With Minnesota reporting high numbers of new cases in recent days, that pressure will continue for three to four weeks even if no more transmissions were to occur from today on.

“It is already in the pipeline,” Walz said. “The question is how deep it gets and how long it lasts before we get a vaccine.”

Addressing those who disagree with his policies on COVID-19 Walz told them to wear a mask, too.

“Wear your mask and stay healthy if for no other reason that’ll keep you healthy to vote against me in two years,” he said.

Abbott Northwestern COVID ICU nurse Kelly Anaas said her ward has been filling with critically ill COVID-19 patients from all over the state, some waiting hours for an ambulance or medical helicopter to transport them from Stacy, Brainerd or Bemidji.

She reminded Minnesotans that while nurses and other health care staff are often called “front line” workers, there isn’t a second line to take their place if hospitals become overwhelmed.

“Your ability to sip a beer at a party with friends is not more important than children going to school, than your friend’s parent, than your ability to celebrate the holidays with your grandmother — next year,” she said.“Please Minnesota, stay home this Thanksgiving so you don’t have to ring in the new year with me.”

New Thanksgiving guidance

In a departure from a previous order urging Minnesotans not to gather together members of more than three households for Thanksgiving, following masking and distancing precautions, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Monday urged Minnesotans not to spend Thanksgiving with people who live outside their immediate household.

“As tempting as it is to just stick with our cherished traditions, this year we really need people to reconsider and frankly not gather with other households,” she said, as case counts have accelerated beyond what health officials had previously projected; Minnesota is on pace to record more than 300,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths before Thanksgiving. Not spending Thanksgiving with members of other households is especially critical if there are people at high risk of developing complications due to COVID-19 among those gathered.

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MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Erhesmann urged college students to take heed in making Thanksgiving plans. They are in an age group most likely to spread COVID-19, often with few or no symptoms, she noted.

She suggested students stay on campus and celebrate virtually with family and friends, to plan a dinner only with those in their household, or get Thanksgiving to go from a grocery store or restaurant.

Ehresmann acknowledged college students often use the Thanksgiving break as a time to go home and meet up with hometown friends but said that’s risky right now.

MDH is strongly discouraging travel over Thanksgiving break, particularly if students are planning to return to campus afterward. If students must travel, they are asked to quarantine for 14 days beforehand, getting tested several days before going home and quarantine as they await their result.

MDH foreshadows potential pause on school sports

As the number of COVID-19 cases associated with school sports rises, Malcolm said Monday the health department is advocating a pause.

“We are urging there to be a pause on play and on practice as well,” she said, adding that MDH has been in discussions on the matter with education leaders and the Minnesota State High School League.

Ehresmann said there have been 46 outbreaks associated with hockey, 41 associated with volleyball, 35 associated with football, 20 associated with basketball and 15 associated with soccer. Some schools have had to switch to distance learning because of sports exposures.

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MDH’s coronavirus website:

MDH’s phone line for COVID-19 questions, Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m: 651-297-1304