4-17-2020 COVID-19 Update from MN Governor Tim Walz and MDH
MN Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update for 4-17-2020
On Friday, April 17, 2020, Governor Tim Walz provided an update on the State of Minnesota’s next steps to combat COVID-19.
Here is a summary of that briefing:
Update from Governor Walz:
- 17 fatalities announced, and more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. It’s our single highest day total of both new infections and fatalities.
- This is not unusual but it doesn’t lessen the tragedy. Sympathies go out to the 17 families who lost loved-ones.
- Governors in the Midwest joined together for a compact
- Governors have been sharing best practices and ideas with each other
- Something we’ve been talking about for several weeks
- A virus doesn’t respect a border
- what’s good about this is it’s a bipartisan group of seven governors (two Republicans and five Democrats) coming together
- We have a set of principles we’re working on:
- Sustain and control the rate of infections and hospitalizations as a top priority as we move toward trying to reopen the economy
- Testing and tracing of contacts to a very high level
- Sufficient health care capacity
- Best practice on social distancing in the workplace
- Excited about this partnership and proud of this group working together
- Executive Order 20-38 enacted today
- expands available and allowable outdoor activities
- maintain social distancing and stay close to home
- don’t travel all over the state and potentially crowd rural hospitals, but get to where you can social distance or go to a park nearby you where you can follow those measures
- Homemade mask drive launched. We’re going to try to organize around this.
- inviting folks to drop these masks off at their local fire stations on Saturday, April 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Mental health issues associated with staying at home
- We know that people feel isolated
- Minnesota has launched a mental health page on the state’s COVID-19 website to make it easier for people. If you or someone you know is in crisis, text “MN” to 741-741 at any time and someone will be in touch with you. Or, you can call “**Crisis”
- Mental health resources are also available at Fasttrackermn.org
- Communities of color being hit disproportionately by COVID-19. Our indigenous communities, people of color, immigrants and refugees are more susceptible to this and to die from COVID. The numbers seem to be supporting that. We want to make sure that we’re taking care of that. The rate of unemployment for black Minnesotans is the highest its even been.
- Minnesota has formed a community resilience and recovery work group to ensure that individuals in communities experiencing health disparities are part of our solutions. We’re going to be talking about policy-making, executive actions and executive orders, communication and outreach, and ways to make sure we’re hearing the voices of those communities.
- On the phone today with JBS pork processing plant in Worthington. We have positive cases showing up in the JBS facility. The good news is plant management has been monitoring this and been in communication with the state. We have put a team down there to work with the plant and local officials to ensure that there is testing at the plant and in the community. It’s in our best interest to keep folks healthy… it’s part of the national food supply system, and a big piece of it.
- We’re reaching out to other food processing plants as well.
Update from Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, 2.2 million infected with COVID-19 and 146,000 deaths
- In the U.S., 672,000 cases and nearly 31,000 deaths
- In MN, 2,071 lab-confirmed cases (up 160 from yesterday, it’s our largest daily increase) and 17 additional deaths, reaching 111 so far
- As of today, 1,066 patients released from isolation in MN. Currently 222 in the hospital, 106 in ICU
- Worthington situation — we’ve been following the developments at the JBS pork processing facility. We discovered yesterday with the number of confirmed tests coming in from the Worthington area, that there was an association with the JBS plant. There are at least 30 confirmed cases in Worthington area, at least 7 are associated with the JBS plant but we expect that number to increase.
- We know from our experience with this, congregate settings are key. Whether that’s a long-term care facility or congregate work settings. There is a risk of disease transmission.
- Big community involvement in the response to this outbreak in Worthington.
- Goal of ours is to help this plant continue to operate safely.
Update from Emergency Medicine Doctor John Hick:
- This is a historic epidemic and we are making historic preparations for this
- We’re grateful for the time that Gov. Walz has bought us with the stay at home orders.
- Looking to make sure that we have a consistent level of care provided to all patients in Minnesota
- We want to make sure that hospital patients are in a hospital beds whenever possible
- We have a hotline being launched next week to help coordinate hospital discharges to long-term care facilities, and also manage transfer between long-term care facilities if necessary.
- We are planning for community-based alternate care sites if they are needed
- We are feeling more optimistic that we won’t to rely on community strategies that have been needed in other areas in order to provide overflow hospital care
- We’re prepared to more than double the state’s 1,300 ICU beds if need be. We also have 2,282 ventilators. That puts us second in all of the regions in the United States, and the Upper Midwest in terms of surge capacity for intensive care resources.
- We are working hard to augment staff in the long-term care facilities to cope with the number of cases they have in their residences right now
- From a supply standpoint, there’s still a scarcity of PPE. But we have now found and sourced better options for masks and other materials, and we’re bringing them into MN as fast as possible.
- In short, we’ve bought time to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients
- Still looking to find the best treatments for COVID-19.
- We’re concerned that people are staying home too much. We’re very concerned that people are too fearful to come into the ER when they’re having chest pain, or when they might be having a stroke or other symptoms. Don’t be afraid of coming into the hospital if you’re not feeling well.
Update from Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner:
- Works at North Memorial in Robbinsdale in the COVID-19 ICU floor
- Thanks to the people of Minnesota to do what you did with the social distancing. If you hadn’t, our hospitals would have been overrun with COVID-19 patients.
- We are doing a fantastic job of being prepared, but you need to know how real this is. We have a full floor of patients that are on ventilators, and they’re on ventilators for several weeks. When we think they’re going to get better and we take the tube out, we have to put it back in.
- COVID-19 attacks not only the respiratory, but it attacks the heart, the kidneys and spreads throughout their whole body
- If you become a patient, or your family ends up in the ICU you can’t see them. They can’t come to hold your hand. As family members you can only call to the nurses station.
Additional Notes from the Governor’s briefing:
- “If we just said let’s go back to the way we were in January in operating, we would kill lots of people, especially those on the front line,” Governor Walz said.
- Governor asked to respond to a Tweet sent out by President Trump today that said, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
- The governor responded to the President and protestors by saying “If they’re protesting staying home, they’re protesting Mary [Turner] too, they’re protesting our front line health folks who need to be there. I will fight to the death to protect those protestors’ rights to protest me every single day that they need to. But I think if the idea — I’m not going to read in what something is supposed to mean — other than, when I called to ask what are we doing differently about moving toward getting as many people back into the workforce without compromising the health of Minnesotans or the providers. That will probably take longer than a two-word Tweet. But I think there’s a responsibility to tell us that. I’d like to know what they think we could have done differently. Because again, we’re leading as we were asked. We’ve flattened the curve. We’ve built up our PPE. We’ve kept Minnesotans alive. And we’re moving people back into the workforce in a safe manner. I would argue we’re doing everything they’re telling us to do, but the difference is, I actually have to do it here. We actually have to do it here and deliver it.”
- Mary Turner of North Memorial asked what it looks like inside the hospital. She responded by saying “At North Memorial we have four ICU’s, and there are about anywhere from 13 to 16 beds apiece. A couple weeks ago, we were the first one of course, we were getting them one at a time, and now our floor is full. And it’s saying full, cause as we move people out — and we are moving people out, people are getting better — there’s more to take those beds. Now, we’ve moved down to the second ICU, and that is quickly filling up. Our sense is that slowly every couple days it’s going up ten more people. And I really have this gut feeling that it’s going to all of a sudden start to snowball.” Turner went on to say that she’s seen people stay on ventilators for three weeks, and they’re blocking up the ICU’s for a long period of time.
- Governor received a question about whether he would officially announce the closure of schools. He said, “I think you can probably expect that decision on schools obviously before or near May 4.” He went on to say that it’s “unlikely” that students would go back.
- Governor said he would sign the bill allowing limited off-sale liquor for establishments closed by his executive order.
- “I think the most unfortunate thing is, the things we probably want more than anything — big sporting events, crowded bars and restaurants, large backyard parties, are going to be some of the last things that come back on,” Gov. Walz said.