4-2-2020: MN COVID-19 Update from Governor Tim Walz and MDH
Governor Tim Walz’s Public Schedule for April 2
On Thursday, April 2, 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.
Governor Tim Walz
- Minnesota State Patrol trooper on Governor Walz security detail recovered from COVID-19 and is fully back
- Announced process for emergency grants is now open for Tier 1 and Tier 2 responders to help with child care
- Grants for child care facilities total $10 million a month for each of the next three months to help keep child care capacity where it needs to be
- MN commercial health plans will waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment.
- “You will not have to choose between rent and food” around getting treatment, says Walz.
- “We need to be nimble. We need to move quickly.”
MN Dept. of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally approaching 1 million cases, 48,200 deaths
- 216,722 confirmed cases in U.S., (over 100,000 in New York/New Jersey region alone); 5,137 deaths in U.S.
- 742 lab confirmed cases in Minnesota. 18 deaths in Minnesota so far. One additional death reported today, April 2, a 69-year-old Hennepin County resident not in a long-term care facility. 373 patients have recovered from COVID-19, released from hospital
- 138 COVID-19 hospitalizations since outbreak, 75 currently in hospital (an increase of 21 since yesterday)
- Health Department historically cautious in sharing personal health data
- Will share more information on COVID-19 patients, including making care facility names public
- Plans to expand to expand COVID-19 testing, including homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters (all congregate care settings, not just nursing homes)
- Publicly thanked disease investigators, MDH staff has interviewed 700-plus health care workers who came in contact to COVID-19 patients
MN Dept. of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelly:
- Over the past month, Minnesota Department of Commerce worked with health insurers to address costs associated with COVID-19
- Health plans will eliminate cost-sharing charges at least through May 31 for COVID-19 testing and in-network treatment and hospitalization
MN Homeland Security and Emergency Mgmt. Director Joe Kelly
- Finalizing letter to President for a Minnesota disaster declaration (Minnesota currently under an emergency declaration)
- A disaster declaration will help Minnesota provide 100 percent reimbursement for crisis counseling assistance to address immediate COVID-19 needs
MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove
- 297,397 applications for unemployment since March 16, (applications an-time record). Processed 90 percent of those.
- One of only four states to see applications trend down this week (attribute that to early application setup)
- 6.6 million in the U.S. have filed for unemployment, again an all-time record
- Expanded hours to take applications and respond to benefit requests
- Top five occupations impacted by job loss: Food preparation/serving-66,355; Health care practioners & support (not coronavirus-related)-27,871; Sales & service-27,557; Administration & support-21,881; Personal care & service-17,166
- 3,821 new job postings (more this week than last)
- Industries hiring: nursing assistance, customer service reps, registered nurses, medical & health service managers, combined food prep/delivery, social and human service assistance, computer-assisted analysis, software developers.
- MN.gov/deed has available jobs
MN Dept. of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller
- What is distance learning? It is NOT online learning, says Mueller. It is more than that and involves teacher interaction through various technologies
- Minnesota schools have served 1.6 million meals to students since buildings closed
- More than 500 Minnesota districts and charter schools came up with their own plans to address student needs
- Our Minnesota educators are “the heroes.” What they’ve done is “nothing short of remarkable,” says Mueller.
Question: When will MDH release names of long-term care facilities impacted by COVID-19? Answer: Will name facilities that have more than 10 beds on MDH website no later than Saturday, says Malcolm. Thirty-six of 47 congregate care facilities in Minnesota have at least one case. Largest number at one facility is eight COVID-19 confirmed positives. Six care facilities have mix of resident and confirmed cases. Eleven of 18 deaths in Minnesota have come in congregate care facilities (nursing home facilities).
Question: What happens with out-of-network costs? Answer: The plans have not made a commitment. Commerce Department and state will continue to work with that to assuage those costs, says Kelly.
Question: What about waiving out-of-state licensing requirements for nurses? Answer: My team is assessing that. It’s a very important issue especially with rural hospitals, says Walz. “Whatever it takes to make sure we have the right staff in those hospitals at the right time,” he said.
Question: How are they implementing social distancing in prison facilities. Answer: “This is another one that keeps me up at night,” says Walz. “We are doing all we can,” but it’s difficult given size of facilties, especially older prisons, he said. Walz says he wants to make Paul Schnell, Department of Corrections Commissioner to help address issue. “We have a responsibility for the workers, the corrections officers. We have a responsibility for humane treatment. It is a unique challenge.”
Question: What about boating and fishing and limiting “non-essential” travel? Answer: People up North are telling people to stay home, says Walz. “Please know, we’re still trying to evolve these.” Governor trying to balance helping people “stay sane” with stay-at-home order declaration. “There’s never going to be a pure black-and-white” on these issues.
Walz mentioned “Social Distancing Complaint Tip Line” to prevent calls to 911. Social distancing complaints shouldn’t go to 911. Residents are encouraged to call the Minnesota State Emergency Operation Center’s hotline at 1-800-657-3504 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Social distancing complaints shouldn’t go to 911.
Question: What is the stockpile of personal protective equipment for health workers? Answer: State is “not nearly as robust as they need to be,” says Walz. Malcolm: there is a shortage of equipment globally. The reality is there will be a gap between what is recommended and what’s possible. Key metrics will be posted online (possibly tomorrow), so public has better gauge on what’s available in Minnesota. “We’re getting a pretty good handle on [what’s available],” says Malcolm.
Question: Should every Minnesotan be wearing a mask? Answer: “I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on that,” says Walz, referring to all the health data. The governor says masks, however, should be available to those who need it most.
Walz: “The shortage of personal protective equipment is a serious thing… We’ve got to ramp up production … just like we built tanks in WWII,” says Walz.
Question: Wondering about closing schools on rest of year? Answer: “It is a relatively strong possibility,” says Walz. Governor feels for graduating seniors. “This is a hard thing to lose,” says Mueller. Education commissioner says districts looking at virtual ceremonies.
Question: Update on how social distancing is making a difference? Answer: Data out there, like in the Bay Area. Based on the number of people being discharged, “it seems to be having an effect,” says Walz, referring to national data. Walz says Minnesota working to provide state data on flattening the curve.
Question: Are there underlying conditions showing up more frequently with COVID-19? Answer: Question noted, we’ll provide answer at future briefing.
Question: What about workers compensation for front-line workers? Answer: An agreement “will get done,” says Walz, referring to work in Minnesota legislature. Republican-led Senate is taking up this issue.
Question: Wondering about tests, such as ones done by Mayo Clinic, for immunity? Answer: Governor says he believes in implementing an antibody test. Very interested in partnering in health organizations, says Walz. “It’s very promising,” says Malcolm.
Question: How many Hispanics being tested for COVID-19, metrics based on ethnicity? Answer: It’s all self-reported data, some decline ethnicity question. As far as we know, about 5% for Hispanics tested positive among confirmed cases, says Malcolm.
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