3-31-2020: MN COVID-19 Update from Governor Walz and MDH
On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Governor Tim Walz joined officials from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and other state agencies to provide updates to local media on Minnesota’s response to COVID-19
Update from Governor Walz:
- Minnesota is now up to 12 COVID-19 deaths
- 629 positive tests in Minnesota
- I encourage people to continue social distancing. When you’re doing outdoor activities, the crowds are too big, especially around the lakes.
- I have signed Executive order 20-25 — authorizing peace officers, firefighters, and security-related licensing modifications. We have several thousand firefighters, police officers and security personnel whose licenses expire on June 30, 2020. Through the normal process they would re-up and get those done. We’re just extending that time period to Jan. 1, 2021 so that they can focus on their front line job.
- I’ve also signed Executive Order 20-26 — ensuring continuing operations of the medical cannabis program. This is an essential service for folks, therapeutic and palliative care. We want to make sure we make this as easy as possible for them. So what this does is it extends the recertification date for current patients that were set to expire in the next few months. They usually have to come back in, re-certify, and go forward. This will just simply extend that out. It allows folks to request an emergency temporary caregiver to help them with medication and dispersal. And allows medical cannabis manufacturers to implement curbside delivery and telephone pharmacist consult. I’ll let Minnesotans know we have strict protocols in place for this, but this just eases the ability to get this to the folks who need it.
Update from MN Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Two more deaths to report in Minnesota today
- Globally, the total is 801,400 cases and 38,700 deaths from COVID-19
- 164,610 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and over 3,170 deaths
- 629 lab-confirmed cases in Minnesota. That’s an increase of 53 since yesterday.
- We have a total of 12 deaths in Minnesota.
- The median age of those infected with COVID-19 is 46 years. The age range is four months to 104 years.
- Since the start of the outbreak, 112 patients hospitalized. The rest have been recovering at home. Currently there are 56 patients in the hospital, and 26 people in ICU today. Thirty people are in medical surgical beds.
- A total of 288 patients have recovered from the illness and have been released from their period of isolation.
- The total of the lab-confirmed cases is the tip of the iceberg. There are more cases in Minnesota and we should be assuming the virus is circulating in our communities.
- We are not experiencing a backlog in testing at this point in time.
- I’d like to stress the importance of keeping up our efforts to stay at home — avoid gatherings, whether large or small with anyone outside of your immediate household. With the holidays coming up in April, we expect COVID-19 cases to increase in our state. We really want to reinforce that this is the time for Minnesotans to keep up their vigilance. This includes having only telephonic or virtual visits with loved ones who are in nursing homes or assisted living. It’s essential to helping us protect those vulnerable Minnesotans.
- We want emergency rooms and hospitals to know that homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters should also get prioritized testing, the same as those in other congregate care settings like nursing homes.
- We also want to make sure that workers in any of these congregate care settings are prioritized for testing, even if they would otherwise not be considered priority due to their age or health status.
Update from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly:
- I’d like to address alternate care sites that we could potentially use as hospitals for non-critical patients.
- Our planning team has conducted assessments of seven facilities and validated five of those as potential alternate care sites. Those five sites could accommodate up to 600 beds. The goal is to identify space for 2,750 beds — that’s 1,000 in the metro and 250 in each of seven regions around the state.
- We are not going to immediately build out all of these identified spaces. We’ll only do it when and where we need to.
- Our goal is to have a facility remodeled and operational within 48-72 hours of deciding to move forward.
- I hope that we never need any of the alternate care sites we’re working on. I hope the current capacity will be adequate for what lies ahead. But hope is not a plan. We need to be ready.
Update from Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove:
- Since Feb. 15, we’ve been notified by eight different companies of layoffs of 50 or more people. It’s affected 4,011 individuals. That number is higher than the same period last year.
- The big industries where we’re seeing that happening is retail, dining, accommodations, manufacturing and health care.
- Since March 16, we’ve received 255,371 applications for unemployment insurance.
- Demographic breakdown of those applications
- More women than men are being affected. 54 percent of applications have been women, 46 percent have been male.
- Workers over the age of 30 have increased compared to last week. Overall our applicant pool is slightly older this week than last week.
- The education breakdown — 38% of the applicants had a high school diploma or less. 41% had some college or an associates degree, and 21% have four years of college or more.
Update from Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Education Heather Mueller:
- It’s day two of distance learning. We’re off to a good start.
- If parents have questions, please reach out to your teacher.
- MCA tests have officially been canceled for the 2019-2020 school year
- During March 18-27, districts and charter schools served over 1.2 million meals on average.
Meanwhile, the governor received a question about when the COVID-19 virus would peak in Minnesota, according to the models.
“When I showed the data a week ago — of course that’s being continuously updated — of showing that we could push back by several weeks, (and this had a margin of error in it by several weeks), but we could push this thing back potentially into May, late May is what we were shooting for,” Gov. Walz said.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm added that “there’s not an updated projection I can give you yet. I would imagine that will be coming in another couple of weeks. We’re just starting to get enough Minnesota data to be helpful.”
Later in the call, a reporter asked about long-term care facilities: given the concern about spread in those facilities, will they have the capacity for new COVID-19 patients who may need extended care after a hospital stay?
Commissioner Malcolm said, “one of the things we really need to look at and work on with the hospitals, and the skilled nursing facilities, and assisted livings, is the best possible protocol for caring for people and when they need to be transferred to the hospital and how we can keep them in their assisted living or long-term care setting safely and to avoid a hospital transfer if that’s possible. Because is just a recipe for more transmission back and forth.”
Another reporter asked the governor a question about what steps the state is taking to help tribes in Minnesota.
“We were able to set up and quickly have grants to be able to move to each of the communities, a million dollars each for them to use on COVID response, COVID testing,” Gov. Walz said.
The governor went on to say that he believes Minnesota has one confirmed case in White Earth that the state is monitoring closely.
“These are independent, sovereign nations. They have their own health care system that is part of what the United States government is responsible for providing. But the state is stepping up and trying to communicate with them,” Gov. Walz added.
Another reporter asked about concerns from business leaders associated with long-term care facilities. They’re concerned about their employees who come to work, who are low-paid workers with their rates regulated by the government. They’re wondering if there’s any incentive package to compel these crucial workers to continue to come to work.
“We’re, at the state, looking at all we can, but our capacity to be able to make a difference in that area is relatively limited because we don’t have the ability to deficit spend and we’re gonna need the federal government to help us,” Gov. Walz said.
One reporter asked for a few more statistics regarding outbreak numbers:
According to Kris Ehresmann, director of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at MDH, Minnesota has 173 health care workers who have been identified as having COVID-19, and as of yesterday we’ve had 6 situations with health care worker to health care worker transmission. We had one situation, patient to health care worker. And we’ve had three where a resident transmitted the virus to a health care worker.