4-1-2020: MN COVID-19 Update from Governor Tim Walz and MDH
Governor Tim Walz’s Public Schedule for April 1
On Wednesday, April 1, 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:
- Five more Minnesotans have died from COVID-19
- Today is National Walking Day. If people go outside, don’t bunch up and maintain social distancing.
- This will be the first April since 1883 that no baseball will be played
- Governor’s State of the State Address has been rescheduled to this Sunday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
- Governor’s 2020 Minnesota Fishing Opener postponed until May 6-9, 2021.
- The Fishing Opener is still happening on May 9, 2020. Watch the DNR’s website for more information.
- Minnesota still has more lakes than Wisconsin
- Today is Census Day. Fill out your census. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s important.
- Minnesota ranks 47th out of 50 states in receiving federal dollars. Each person undercounted accounts for $28,000 over the life of the census.
- Governor Walz reports that he was on a call with all of the other state governors. One of the frustrations that came up is the testing issue.
Update from Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, more than 873,700 cases, and 43,200 deaths
- In the United States, 189,633 confirmed cases, and 4,081 deaths
- In Minnesota, we now have 689 lab-confirmed cases. That’s up 60 from yesterday’s total.
- Five more COVID-19 deaths, bringing us to a total of 17. Everyone has been over the age of 70. Two of them associated with long-term care facilities.
- Age range of confirmed cases, 4 months to 104 years with a median age of 47 years.
- Since the start of the outbreak, 122 patients hospitalized for COVID-19. As of today, there are 54 patients hospitalized, 27 of those in intensive care, 27 in regular medical surgical beds.
- As of today, 342 patients have come through the disease period and have been released from isolation.
- There are more cases in Minnesota that we don’t know about.
- Yesterday we had a total of 1,400 lab tests run on individuals through a combination of state health labs and private labs.
- With holidays coming up, we strongly urge Minnesotans to stay at home and avoid gatherings with anyone outside of your household group. It’s difficult but essential to limit the spread of the outbreak.
- Commissioner asks people to give blood. The blood supply is under a lot of stress with blood drives being canceled. But it is a safe process.
- We continue to monitor our supplies. It’s not just about the test kits themselves from the CDC. It’s also about the supplies in the laboratory and chemicals that are required to run those tests. Supplies for our highest capacity testing platform are backordered until May 1. It’s one of the supply chain issues facing the MDH.
- We’ve sent specific supply requests to the federal government and have not heard back.
- None of the requested supplies asked of HHS have materialized in Minnesota at this point.
- Fortunately, Minnesota hospitals are developing their own testing platforms and working directly with manufacturers for supplies.
- However, many of our health care providers say that their requests for testing supplies are on backorder
- Even if we had plenty of testing supplies in the labs, the health care provider system still needs swabs to take samples from patients. Those are in very short supply. Same goes for Personal Protective Equipment for the providers taking the swabs.
- Even if we had the PPE and the swabs to take the samples, we need to have enough people — so all of these really make the testing system multi-layered and complex.
- There are new testing strategies being developed, but they’re not on the market just yet.
Update from MN Homeland Security and Emergency Mgmt. Director Joe Kelly:
- The state emergency operations center is a busy place
- One of the most amazing things happening here is the amount of offers for help from corporations, families and community groups — more than 800 offers for help.
- It’s gratifying to see how much people want to help
- A lot of people have offered to put their sewing skills to good use to make reusable cloth masks.
- People who haven’t shown any symptoms could be walking around spreading the disease without knowing it. A homemade cloth mask could help prevent the spread.
- If you’re kind enough to make cloth masks for donation, please distribute them locally (such as community hospitals, jails, or to transit drivers).
Update from DEED Commissioner Steve Grove:
- Small businesses facing challenges can now reference a guide on the DEED website. Go to mn.gov/DEED. The guide will walk you through everything from the SBA programs available, to the state emergency loan programs that are available to the state loan guarantee program.
- DEED is continuing to work with colleagues from the Dept. of Labor and the Dept. of Treasury to move the federal funding from the CARES Act to the state as quickly as possible. Still waiting for guidance on them as to how that funding will be distributed.
- The state has secured new lenders for the small business emergency loan program.
- Starting tomorrow, we’re going to hold a series of regular calls for community leaders across the state
- Unemployment insurance: 272,766 applications since the crisis began March 16.
- Yesterday, 17,411 applications for unemployment insurance.
- Applications are starting to come in from health care occupations (such as dental hygienists and staff associated with elective surgeries that have been paused)
- If you’re a health care worker who is looking for work, there are positions available such as personal care aide jobs and human service jobs.
During the question and answer period, the governor received a question as to whether he expected to extend the stay at home order beyond April 10.
“Our peak is still coming. We are seeing real evidence that social distancing is working in slowing this down. We’ll evaluate as we get closer, but I would anticipate sometime toward the early to middle of next week, we’ll be making that determination based on the data,” Gov. Walz said.
Commissioner Grove took a question about federal funding and when businesses could access that money.
“We’re being told a matter of days on the $600. In terms of extending the benefits to a broader cross section of workers who are not covered by [unemployment insurance] we are being told a matter of weeks there. The key thing we have to calculate there is, if you haven’t been covered by unemployment insurance in the past, we haven’t been tracking your wages. So we can’t track the benefits that you’d be eligible for in the same way we could if you were in the system,” Commissioner Grove said.
Meanwhile, the governor was asked about whether he would take a second look at granting workers’ comp benefits to first responders to make COVID-19 a presumed workplace disease.
“The simple answer to that is, that should have been done. There was a disagreement amongst some in in the legislature who were making the assumption they were already covered. I don’t believe they are. I’m trying to do my best to work with the co-equal branch but I am prepared to take executive action on this if they’re not able to find a solution together as quickly as possible,” Gov. Walz said.
The governor asked Commissioner Grove when people can expect to see unemployment checks in hand.
“Bottom line is this, it’s gonna be a week or two after you apply,” Commissioner Grove said. “That’s about the window of time that we can get you the money that you need.”
Grove went on to say that DEED will backdate the pay from the day that you were separated from your job.
On the topic of reusable cloth masks, officials from the Minnesota Department of Health gave advice on whether average people should start wearing those.
“That discussion is really picking up just in the last day at the federal level. We have heard federal leaders, Dr. Fauci and others beginning to advise that that’s not a bad idea when out in public,” Commissioner Malcolm said.
“While this is a tool that may be useful for everyone down the road, our priority right now is making sure that we can make this type of reusable mask available in the health care settings,” added Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious diseases at the MDH.
The governor also got a question as to whether the state would try to step up enforcement of the stay at home order.
“What we do know is social distancing works, and we do know that Minnesota has done a pretty good job, but I’m gonna be the first to tell you that we need to continue to do better,” Gov. Walz said.
“It was not our intention to have our first responders going out there breaking up basketball games or telling people to walk further apart, but we need to continue to get the word out.”
The governor added that he’s not interested in arresting people who violate the order, nor does he have a stepped-up enforcement scenario in mind.