12-4 MN COVID-19 Update: Phase 1 Vaccinations Expected Before Christmas
Governor Walz, Long-Term Care Providers Highlight Efforts to Keep Long-Term Care Residents Safe
The Minnesota Department of Health held a conference call Friday, Dec. 4, to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19.
MN Governor Tim Walz:
- “A lot of thoughts over many months” have gone into vaccine distribution, said Walz. The Minnesota governor expected to provide vaccine distribution update early next week.
- “The behaviors we exhibit impact them,” said Walz, referring to residents of long-term care.
- Governor created 5-point “battle plan” back in early May to help long-term care providers address staffing shortages.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, 65.4 million cases since start of pandemic; 1.51 million deaths (up 2,700)
- In U.S, 14.2 million cases since pandemic began; 276,000 deaths
- In Minnesota, 338,973 total confirmed cases (up 5,371 over previous day)
- Of the 338,973 confirmed cases, 293,151 (86%) are no longer considered infectious
- In Minnesota, 3,845 total deaths (up 61)
- Of the 61 newly reported deaths, 36 were residents of long-term care/assisted living
- 7-day case positivity rate is 10.7% (through data as of Nov. 25). Rate has fallen from 13.5% one week prior and 15.5% two weeks prior.
- Residents of long-term care are “the most vulnerable Minnesotans for getting COVID-19, having severe disease, and unfortunately dying from COVID,” said Malcolm.
- MDH has helped more than 3,230 long-term care facilities with infection control.
- List of long-term care facilities with exposure to COVID-19 can be found on this MDH website page.
- Staffing shortage at long-term care (LTC) facilities predated the pandemic, COVID-19 exacerbated it, said Malcolm.
- The Minnesota National Guard has provided support at facilities throughout state.
- State using volunteer database to help shift health care workers where there is a shortage of help at LTC facilities
- Minnesota ranks 31st out of 50 states in cases per 1,000 residents (the closer to 50 the better).
- 27 out of 50 states when it comes to COVID-19 deaths.
- High rates of community transmission contributing to higher rates of deaths among long-term care residents.
- Case rates above 5% in 86 Minnesota counties
- Above 10% in 71 counties
- Above 15% in 34 counties
- Above 20% in 4 counties
- Currently 57 long-term care facilities in Minnesota have “staffing crises,” said Malcolm.
Q&A Session and Notes:
- “To say 2020 has been a busy year for the Guard has been an understatement,” said Major General Shawn Manke with the Minnesota National Guard.
- More than 600 Guard members helping with the state’s COVID-19 relief efforts, including addressing staffing shortages.
- MN National Guard also helped calm the civil unrest following May 25 George Floyd death in Minneapolis
- To date, the Minnesota National Guard is supporting 17 long-term care facilities involving 100 Guard members, and Manke expects those numbers to grow.
- “I’m begging you on behalf of the 13,000 soldiers and airmen in the Minnesota National Guard and their families, I ask you to please follow the simple rules,” said Manke, referring to wearing a mask, social distancing and limiting mixing of households. Many Guard members will spend the holidays away from their families to help with the COVID crisis, Manke mentioned.
- “These last several months have been emotionally and mentally challenging, not only for our residents but for our staff. They truly are our heroes,” said Nate Schema, vice president of operations at the Good Samaritan Society. The Good Samaritan Society has 50 locations throughout Minnesota, including the northwest suburbs (New Hope and Robbinsdale).
- You can find CDC’s approved vaccination plan here, which starts with health care workers and long-term care residents. Minnesota required to follow CDC’s distribution frame work, said Malcolm. Vaccine will require a two-dose regimen.
- On when front line health care workers and nursing home residents will get vaccine. “This is happening in real time,” said Walz. Initial group expected to be vaccinated by end of year. Malcolm agreed with that time frame, saying “if all goes well,” vaccinations will occur before Christmas.
- “Our mask usage numbers are up,” said Walz about MDH analysis throughout state.
- “The mask is more protective for person wearing the mask than previously thought,” said Malcolm referring to national study data.
- Health officials uncertain yet if COVID-19 vaccine will end up being a yearly shot, similar to the flu shot.
- “It is harder to do contact tracing,” said Walz due to volume of cases coming in. Malcolm said contact tracing is not an automated process, but involves a lot of staff time. Malcolm says new COVIDaware MN app is a good tool to help alert others.
- Malcolm also mentioned about updating state’s quarantine guidance next week.
You can see the Governor’s full press conference on the administration’s YouTube page.