4-29-2020 COVID-19 Update from the MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 4-29-2020
Jan Malcolm, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health
- Globally 3.1 million case, 217,000 deaths, U.S. more than 1 million cases, 58,000 deaths
- 4,645 confirmed cases in MN (up 465 from yesterday, a significant increase due to testing); total deaths in MN: 319 (up 18, 16 of those in long-term care)
- One of the newly reported COVID-19 update deaths involved a 30-year-old, the youngest victim in the state so far. This individual had significant underlying health issues.
- Minnesota’s data dashboard has updates: https://mn.gov/covid19
- As testing ramps up, so does number of cases
- State has done 66,744 molecular diagnostic tests (these tests determine if you have COVID-19); A single-day high of 2,915 tests reported on Wednesday.
- Goal of 5,000 tests per day for people with symptoms by next week
- State still on track to reach capacity of 20,000 tests per day “in three to four weeks” under $36 million partnership with University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.
- Gov. Tim Walz joining U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in Worthington to discuss outbreaks in food processing facilities, including the JBS pork plant that has temporarily shut down.
Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director
- High prevalence of cases in nursing homes and meatpacking plants
- “I just want people to know that we are going to continue see more cases and we will continue to see death,” as testing increases.
- 215 long-term care facilities in MN with a case of COVID-19, almost half with just one case (93 with one case, 31 with two cases). Fatality rate will drop as testing increases, she said.
Marie Dotseth, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health
- Monitoring bed capacity daily
- Working to increase care capacity inside hospitals
- “We’re well prepared capacity wise,” in terms of the expected surge. “Everything we’re seeing is what we’re planning for right now.”
Joe Kelly, Director of MN Homeland Security and Emergency Management
- MN hospitals have significantly increased capacity
- Doubled intensive care capacity, added 1,800 beds in non-patient areas at hospitals, medical facilities
- Reached agreement with Presbyterian Homes in Roseville, a recently shuttered nursing home, to handle more capacity (about 100 beds)
- This is state’s first alternate care site, will care for non-critical patients; be ready in a couple of weeks
- Best care provided at hospitals, not alternate care sites, said Kelly
Steve Grove, Commissioner, MN Department of Employment and Economic Development
- Working day and night to get pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) up and running to help self-employed contractors. Minnesota one of the first in country to do so. These individuals not covered by state’s unemployment insurance.
- If you have applied before, don’t need to apply again for PUA. Also get $600/week additional payment through federal CARES Act.
- About 40,000 applied for PUA. “It’s complex,” said Grove referring to PUA system that works to prevent fraud.
- 564,690 unemployment applications since March 16. About 17,928 new applications this week, a downward trend.
- Averaging 5,000 calls a day, wait times average about one hour.
- More info: https://www.uimn.org/
- New business partnership with Target/Minute Clinic to screen employees returning to work. It’s a free new app to help businesses. Details here: https://mnsymptomscreener.minnesotasafetycouncil.org/
- Target also making no touch infrared thermometers available for businesses at wholesale cost through May 16. There has been a shortage of these thermometers. Temperature checks won’t be required, but are recommended, Grove said.
- Working on plan to get businesses back to work, engaging with business leaders. About 100,000 workers in manufacturing and industrial settings returned to work on Monday, April 27
COVID-19 Update Q&A Session:
- Best Buy, large furniture stores reopening. How does process work to reopen? Can mom-and-pops do the same? Answer: Grove, any store that is open now provide critical items. (Furniture stores open to provide lift chairs, Best Buy provides critical technology). They are covered by previous executive orders.
- What about lawsuit filed by small business coalition, concerned about arbitrary reopening of businesses. Answer: Steve Grove: “We do know that businesses are struggling right now.” “It’s a challenging time for small businesses more so than bigger businesses,” said Grove. The lines drawn are data driven, based on science, and national guidance. “We get it,” when understanding frustration of small businesses.
- Mentioned opening up as much funding as possible for small business
- Concrete steps to help small businesses: SBA loans – MN one of the highest rates in the country to process payments, says Grove.
- Curbside pickup still allowed
- On when state reduces social distancing restrictions, what about modeling? What is state predicting? Answer: Malcolm: The model we talked about with U of M and MN Dept of Health, we expect a rerun of the model in the next week, will share results then (this is the third time run mode). There is likely to be more spread, said Malcolm, on reducing restrictions.
- A lot of effort put in for health expert guidance to help businesses reopen
- Restricting close contact with people outside your household will stay in place
- Wear cloth masks in public settings to protect each other
- On the shape of Minnesota’s case curve: Malcolm: hoping to push peak out in time, if not flatten it.
- Next steps to stay-at-home order? Answer: Malcolm: “We’re sharing data with the Governor all the time, about what we’re seeing in the pandemic, where we are focusing our efforts.” Not just looking at lab cases, but also other data sources about what is going on with disease, she said.
- “We’re in a growth phase with the pandemic,” said Malcolm about cases in MN. “Unfortunately, we’re going to see more deaths.”
- Robust number of factors in place to decide reopening businesses, referring to Governor’s ‘dial’ for decisionmaking.
- On alternate care sites, are we on track to have enough ICU beds? Malcolm: Yes, that is the case
- What about buying nonessential things at big box stores? Concern relates to social distancing at big-box stores and small businesses who can’t open to disperse shoppers. Answer: DEED’s Grove “That is very much something we’re looking at.” Current orders not perfect, said Grove. Governor contemplating next steps to help smaller businesses, such as hobby stores.
- Didn’t want to preview future announcements when asked about restaurants and hair salons.
- Does MDH have threshold for notifying public on long-term cases? Ehresmann: “We are asking the facilities be the ones to share that information.” … “The number of cases is not always a function of whether a facility is following guidance or not.”
- Question on long-term care facility deaths. Answer: MDH says 99.24% of all COVID-19 fatalities thus far in Minnesota were persons with underlying health issues. 249 of the state’s 319 deaths have been persons in long-term care congregate living settings
- Underlying health issues include diabetes, obesity, not just compromised immune systems or pre-existing respiratory issues
- Governor looking at a more tailored stay-at-home order, factoring in those at higher risk, said Malcolm.