4-20-2020 COVID-19 Update from MN Governor Tim Walz and MDH
MN Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update for 4-20-2020
On Monday, April 20, 2020, Governor Tim Walz joined Ecolab CEO Doug Baker to talk about ways public-private partnerships have strengthened Minnesota’s response to COVID-19. The two also provided an update on actions the State of Minnesota is taking.
This is a summary of their news briefing with the media:
Update from Governor Walz:
- Thanks again to Minnesotans abiding by the stay-at-home order. It’s helping us weather the wave of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
- Spent the morning talking to state business leaders about what it’s going to take to reopen.
- Most of the retailers and businesses understand they’re going to have to change the way business is done for the next 18 months, regardless of what the stay at home order looks like.
- People’s shopping experience is going to change dramatically. Very few people are going to go in and try clothes on right now.
- Minnesota’s advantages are a robust health care system, a robust public health sector, a business ethic of philanthropy and community responsibility that helps creating public-private partnerships easier.
- One of the first people Governor Walz called to help procure PPE at the onset of the outbreak was Doug Baker of Ecolab
- Some of the most successful companies in the world have given their people to help Minnesota procure PPE
- There will be critical equipment when needed and an increase in PPE.
- JBS pork processing plant in Worthington increased experiencing numbers of COVID-19. The public health people down there are doing “incredible work.”
- JBS announced a voluntary shutdown of the plant today
- Lessons learned at JBS plant will be applied to other packing facilities across the state. This is important because Minnesota feeds a large portion of the world.
- Last week, we saw people frustrated with the stay-at-home order
- Governor said he had a good conversation with President Trump after his “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” tweet.
- Governor asked how Minnesota could align better with the proposals put out by the federal government.
- Governor talked to the President about challenges surrounding PPE and testing
- “I left that conversation Saturday night believing that we are aligned, we are getting this right.”
- “I said I understand the frustrations, but I did express to the President I’m not sure that’s really helpful at this point in time, and if there’s anything that he needs me to do, it would be better if he would just call and we would talk, and I think we both agreed to that. It’s just not healthy to play it out in a public setting where there’s not real back and forth,” Gov. Walz said of his conversation with the President.
COVID-19 Update from Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- 2.4 million COVID-19 cases globally and 166,000 deaths
- In the U.S., 760,000 confirmed cases and just under 41,000 deaths in the US
- In MN, 2,470 cases and 143 deaths from COVID-19.
- 237 patients currently hospitalized, 126 of those in the ICU.
- Worthington situation:
- The skill of the disease investigators is a great asset
- Strong link to the JBS plant
- Great challenges in this community with the number of languages being spoken.
- The people also don’t have ideal housing situations
- Some of them also don’t have phones, so the investigations are taking longer than normal
- Of the 77 confirmed cases in Nobles County, we’ve completed 41 of the interviews. 33 of them were employees of JBS and 6 were family members of the employees
- We’ve been working closely with long-term care facilities that have COVID-19 cases:
- in a Wayzata facility, a tipping point was reached where staff couldn’t take care of the residents due to a cluster of cases
- The 46 residents of that facility were then relocated, either to their families, hospitals, or other congregate care settings
- These relocations were triggered by the lack of critical staff on site
- It took an extraordinary effort for it to happen quickly and professionally. Everyone is now getting the care and support that they need.
Update from Ecolab CEO Doug Baker:
- My big job was making the MN business community aware of the challenge, and they volunteered.
- What we’re doing is using the procurement teams of the Minnesota businesses
- The state doesn’t go out and do this by nature, this is an emergency time where we can help in a unique way
- Companies such as 3M, Donaldson, C.H. Robinson, Mayo, Patterson, Polaris, Toro, Target and Ecolab have all helped with procurement, logistics, and warehouse management.
Update from Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis:
- We continue to compete for supplies with 49 other states and countries across the world
- Over the past three weeks, many Minnesota businesses have stepped up to assist the state
- We’ve gotten some of the top talent from Minnesota businesses
- We’re continuing to build capacity of PPE, but there’s a lot of work to do
- I’m heartened by the commitment of all of the public-private partners who have stepped in to help us with this effort
Update from Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink:
- When it became clear that a number of COVID-19 positive tests came from the JBS facility, different departments worked to develop guidelines for the meatpacking sector
- We will be sending out those guidelines to all of the facilities in the state and offering the assistance of the state to develop the plans that are necessary to allow them to comply with the CDC guidelines
- We are asking for the facilities to voluntarily share with us the health status related to their workforce — (i.e. Have they had workers who were symptomatic and were sent home?)
- Our objective is to keep these plants open, but to keep them open in a manner that keeps their workers safe. That means there has to be a strong collaboration between health, labor and agriculture to thread that needle in this industry.
Update from Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen:
- Tough time for MN’s agricultural industry
- Before COVID-19, we had five years of bad prices.
- We’re here to do whatever we can to support our farmers
- We’ve been working with the leadership of the Worthington plant to figure out how they can resume their operations as soon as possible
- With closures of processing plants, it’s going to make things very challenging.
- It’s safe to consume pork. There’s no evidence to suggest that food or food packaging is associated with the transmissions of COVID-19.
- U.S. pig farmers are estimated to lose $5 billion for the remainder of the year
- We have assigned staff members to help farmers that have lost markets. Farmers looking at that can go to our COVID-19 website for help to find markets.
- We have 20 other large packing companies in MN, and our goal is to keep those plants running.
- The MN Department of Agriculture is working with smaller plants to build capacity
- This last week we gave out $340,000 to those plants to help them increase processing capacity
- This is a stressful time for our farmers. We have a mental health line and ten farm advocates they can reach out to.
- We’ll work together with other state agencies to get through this.
- We want to make sure Minnesotans have a safe and accessible food supply.
Other notes from today’s meeting:
- Behavior among customers will not change until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, that’s why businesses are thinking this will be a big shift in how retail looks going forward.
- Reopening businesses will have to be driven by the science and the data
- The governor says JBS and other situations show that it makes no difference whether you have a stay at home order or not if people are getting infected and not able to come to work
- Governor says it’s not feasible to shelter in place for 18 months. “So we’re trying to strike that balance.”
- Governor talked more about conversation with President Trump, saying it was close to a 10-minute conversation. “We committed to working together.”
- “We’re going to have to test and retest and stay out of this for a while if we really think that we’re going to be able to contain pockets, do the smart work that the epidemiologists have done. I think we shouldn’t kid people if we think that massive testing makes everything go back to normal, but it does move us to a better place,” Gov. Walz said.
- Governor said everyone who’s symptomatic or who should need a test should be able to get one, and we should have enough capacity in major employment centers to go in and test everybody. The hope is that this week there will be “a significant change” in that. But he admits the state has “run into issues.”
- Governor said he’s not “super optimistic” about high school or collegiate athletics resuming in the immediate future. “I don’t want to set up any false expectations. I think anything you play close together where you’re touching the same ball, or you’re in large groups, that’s going to be hard.”
- Governor said he expects to make a decision on schools closing sometime this week.
- Governor says some of the inequities in the state’s education system are being exacerbated right now. “This will have decades-long impact on our children with this interruption if we don’t get this right.”
- On reopening businesses, the governor said, “if opening up the businesses were safe, we would do it tomorrow. That did no good at Smithfield. It will do no good at JBS, and there are numerous others on this…. just to say open up, that’s not reasonable. We cannot open up without safeguards in place.”
- Testing is available to employees of JBS. Getting them to come for that testing, however, is another thing because some people might be undocumented. Malcolm said it should not be a barrier to receive testing.
- Governor hopes to see significant uptick in testing by this week. Ideally, he’d like to start seeing 40,000 a week by this week. “Minnesotans should just agree that we’re not testing as much as we should.”
- Walz says feds/state officials may be talking past each other on testing, but trying to do the right thing. On testing: “I would blame both federal and state for not getting that to you.”
- Governor said there will probably be a “modification” of the stay-at-home order as more information comes in.
- The governor’s dog ate his glasses this morning