4-3-2020: MN COVID-19 Update from Governor Tim Walz and MDH
Governor Tim Walz & Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and other state agencies provide latest COVID-19-related information.
Update from Governor Walz:
- We have to report four more deaths from COVID-19
Update from MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- The global picture has now passed 1 million cases of COVID-19 and over 54,000 deaths
- U.S. at 246,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 6,000 deaths
- in MN we are now at 789 lab-confirmed cases, an increase of 47 since yesterday
- Total number of deaths in MN are now at 22. Three of the deaths associated with long-term care residents. The fourth is a resident with significant underlying health conditions
- As of today, 410 patients released from isolation. There are 86 patients in the hospital today. Forty of those patients in the ICU and 46 non-ICU patients.
- Congregate care settings: We have 47 long-term care facilities reporting cases. 31 of these facilities have one case. Eight have two cases. Eight of the facilities have more than two cases.
- We also have two confirmed cases among staff in corrections facilities, one at Moose Lake, one at Red Wing.
- We’re continuing to add new information to the MDH COVID-19 home page, which will include a list of the specific long-term care facilities with outbreaks, as long as those facilities are larger than 10 beds.
- The website has a more robust page of graphics and charts so people can see how the epidemic is progressing in Minnesota.
- Masks — lots of discussion with evolving guidance as more is learned about the virus. Wearing a non-medical grade mask is one way to protect others around you. When you wear a mask, it’s not meant to protect you from catching the virus from others, and it’s not a substitute for social distancing. If you wear a mask, it protects others around you. The mask helps prevent respiratory droplets from coming in contact with other people.
- If you do decide to wear a mask, please do not use medical grade or surgical masks. Health Care workers really need these.
- Please continue to social distance and wash your hands, even if you wear a mask.
Update from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly:
- Weekly conference calls with other state leaders show that we need to be ready for things beyond COVID-19, such as natural disasters
- We’re keeping an eye on the horizon beyond the pandemic
- Severe weather awareness week is coming up, April 13-17. The signature event is the statewide tornado drills. As of now, we’re planning to do that on Thursday, April 16. But we’ll evaluate the appropriateness of that as we get closer to the day.
- We need to be ready for everything.
Update from Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell:
- We’ve activated our incident management team
- Each of our wardens have developed and are implementing our “Stay with Unit Plan” at each of our correctional facilities. This is the prison version of the Stay-at-Home Plan.
- All of the Minnesota prisons have different living situations. Some single cell, some double cells… dormitories holding between four and up to 100 or more incarcerated people. Each each of our prisons are divided into living units. Under normal circumstances, incarcerated people from different living units can be intermingled for certain activities (i.e. dining, educational programming, etc.)
- But with the close quarters in prison, this intermingling can allow for a virus like COVID-19 to spread quickly. With the “Stay with Unit Plans,” our design is to minimize the potential for spread of COVID by increasing the opportunity for social distancing, No. 1, and No. 2 to provide for unit level separation which decreases the potential for serious outbreaks.
- Also allows them to plan for the possibility of a serious outbreak occurring
- We’ve been working closely with the MDH to implement measures to minimize risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19
- Some people might say that we should lock prisoners in a cell and feed them sandwiches and hope for the best, but we have to treat people humanely who are in prison.
- COVID-19 presents new challenges and risks. A significant portion of our population has serious underlying medical conditions that puts them a greater risk than others. To manage spread, we’ve taken steps to maximize capacity and options to allow for quarantine or protective containment.
- We also started reviewing candidates who are serving sentences for non-violent crimes and are within 90 days of regular release for placement in the DOC’s long-standing work education and vocational training release program.
- Moose Lake has seven confirmed positive test cases of inmates and 13 inmates that are presumed positive based on symptoms. There is one staff person confirmed positive at Moose Lake, and one that is presumed positive with symptoms.
- At Red Wing, two staff members have tested positive. None of the youth inmates tested positive or have shown any symptoms. They have, however, been quarantined.
- No positive tests at other correctional facilities.
- Tests still pending at Stillwater and Lino Lakes
Update from DEED Commissioner Steve Grove:
- We are up to 320,043 applications for unemployment applications. The ability of our team to process these applications continues to be stretched.
- We want to get every single claim right and make sure that each person who applies has a good experience
- We are preparing quickly to issue those additional $600 payments coming from the federal government
- This is a challenging time for all Minnesotans. We’re processing these applications as fast as we can.
- If people aren’t using the internet, there is a call-in number. We’re trying to keep those open to people who don’t have access to the website.
During the Q&A session with reporters, Gov. Walz took a question about President Trump’s order regarding N-95 respirator masks and whether that would cut into the supply of Minnesota’s needs.
“We’re still trying to assess exactly what it means. The president has resisted using that, and it came kind of as a surprise to many,” Gov. Walz said.
“This is a concern, we have not yet had all the time to assess exactly what it means. But this is the ever-changing landscape of a very fragmented supply chain system.”
The governor went on to say, “We’re being told to go out and find these ourselves, when we find them, we’re being outbid by the federal government. And now, they’re shutting off a source right here in Minnesota, apparently,” referring to 3M.
Meanwhile, the governor received a question as to what he’s weighing as he decides whether to extend the stay-at-home order, and whether he’s worried that some of the surrounding states haven’t implemented similar restrictions.
“I do worry about that. I think it’s probably only a matter of time before they issue those too,” he said.
As for extending the stay-at-home order, he said “There’s certainly a probability that we’ll go to the CDC standards and the president’s place where they went to the end of April.”
Later in the call, the state health officials received a question about whether COVID-19 is an airborne disease and whether we should be concerned about that.
Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease specialist at MDH said, “I think that if airborne spread was the most predominant, or the main mode of transmission, we would have seen even more cases than we are now. That’s not to say that it isn’t an important element of how it’s spread, but I think unlike measles, it’s not the main mode of spread, because I think we would’ve seen a little bit different pattern of transmission.”
Meanwhile, officials from the MDH say that data specific to influenza in Minnesota has really declined. “We think social distancing has made a really big difference with that disease,” Ehresmann said.
The governor received a question as to what sort of benchmarks he would look at as he determines whether to reopen schools and businesses. The governor said, “if we can identify who has immunity, that’s a game-changer. And we in Minnesota are going to focus heavily on that because we have the nation’s focus at Mayo Clinic already on it. The real-time, 15-minute testing, is going to be a piece of that. And then watching lessons learned from elsewhere. I’m staying in contact with people I know in southern China and watching the resurgence on the second wave, there’s going to be good researchers and epidemiologists that put all of that together.”
“If this didn’t just kill so many people, there would be the ability to approach this differently,” Gov. Walz said.
In summary, the governor said immunity, real-time testing, lessons learned, and then mortality rates starting to drop will be things that he will look for with regards to benchmarks.