4-27-2020 COVID-19 Update from the MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 4-27-2020
On Monday, April 27, Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm and Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann provided a situation update on the Minnesota Department of Health’s response to COVID-19, including new cases and investigation findings.
This is a summary of what was discussed during that media briefing.
Update from Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, 3 million total cases of COVID-19, and 207,000 deaths
- In the U.S., 1 million total cases of COVID-19, and 55,000 deaths
- In MN, 3,816 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 286 deaths
- 1,842 patients released from isolation in MN
- 292 patients currently in the hospital, 122 in intensive care
Update from MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann:
- Providing an overview of the work the MDH has been doing related to processing plants
- MDH began proactive outreach to large meat processing and agribusiness facilities following the outbreak at the Smithfield processing plant in South Dakota.
- MDH provided guidance to these facilities about things they should be thinking about regarding distancing and employee screenings.
- Over the last week and a half, we started seeing situations “evolving” in Minnesota (for instance, like at the JBS plant in Worthington)
- MDH team visited JBS plant to evaluate how they were doing things and provided guidance on how they could make improvements, including more aggressive employee screening and exclusions.
- Local public health has had a role in outreach, ensuring that essential housing and services can be provided
- The MDH serves as a resource to the local public health teams dealing with outbreaks throughout MN
- MDH providing similar guidance to similar facilities across the state about how to deal with a similar increase in COVID
- MDH provides guidelines and recommendations. They do not have a regulatory role with these plants.
- Last week, MDH did a call with vegetable canning plants about things they should be considering as the summer comes upon us.
Update from Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson:
- This continues to be a difficult situation for Minnesota’s farmers with some of the plants being down.
- State is working on building out capacity at smaller meat processing facilities across Minnesota to help them handle more livestock
- Too many animals to handle (e.g. hogs and chickens)
- State will need to euthanize some animals
- Working with American Veterinary Medical Association on best practices for euthanizing as we move forward
- For now, our food supply is stable. Consumers, however, will see disruptions and higher prices. It will become more pronounced depending on how long this COVID-19 situation lasts.
Update from Commissioner Nancy Leppink, MN Dept. of Labor & Industry:
- The Dept. of Labor & Industry is working with the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Health to engage with the meatpacking and food processing sector.
- 50 of Minnesota’s meatpacking facilities have been contacted directly so they know more about the guidelines they should follow. The state also inquired about the health of their workers.
- Some facilities identified challenges they were having and engaged with state departments to gain assistance.
- Free consultation assistance being provided to employers who are having more significant challenges in identifying processes that are consistent with CDC guidelines
- We hope employers will seek our agency’s assistance so we can assist them in navigating those challenges and won’t find themselves in a situation where they have to close down their plant to make the necessary changes
- The objective is to keep these businesses (such as big meat processing plants) operating while fully understanding that there will be needed changes in how they operate their plants in order to address the requirements and CDC guidelines.
Additional Notes from the call:
- MDH says outbreaks involving employees from agriculture processing plants are happening both inside the plant and in the community.
- Commissioner Malcolm says people need to keep social distancing as the weather starts to get nicer. And if you have to get out, stay close to home. Going out should be for “essential activities.”
- A team from the CDC is in Minnesota assessing the COVID-19 situation in Minnesota long-term care facilities.
- Reporter asks about Minnesota having the highest death-to-case ratio in the entire country. MDH says much of Minnesota’s testing was being done in long-term care settings (the highest risk patients), so testing was not representative of the entire population of MN. As our testing expands, that death-to-case ratio should level out.
- Commissioner Malcolm thinks Minnesota has been better than other states in terms of preventing deaths among the general population.
- More than 50 percent of Minnesota’s meat processing capacity has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreaks
- Farmers are slowing down what they’re feeding pigs so they’re not ready as fast.
- Meat prices could fluctuate a bit and people will see disruptions, depending on how things play out.
- Commissioner Malcolm says the state is working through “logistical issues” regarding the ramp up of COVID-19 testing, but the MDH expects the testing numbers to climb this week.
- Logistic problems include the fact that there are many different testing platforms. Getting the supplies for the various platforms (such as a specific type of swab) is difficult.
- None of the state agencies are doing routine site visits at the food processing plants to see if they’re adhering to the various guidelines (such as social distancing and wearing PPE).
- Commissioner Malcolm says there is concern that there’s much they don’t know about the best way to apply testing.
- MDH is continuing to add more “contact tracers” to help with COVID-19 investigations (i.e. where people were exposed, who could have been exposed).