4-7-2020: COVID-19 Update from MN Governor Tim Walz and MDH
MN Governor Walz to Join Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 4-7-2020
On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Governor Tim Walz and other state officials participated in the daily Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) media call to provide an update on Minnesota’s response to COVID-19.
The following is a summary of what they discussed.
Update from Governor Walz:
- We had four additional deaths due to COVID-19
- Total of 1,069 positive tests in Minnesota
- Seeing strong indications that stay-at-home order is working
- This is a month of important religious celebration: Passover, Easter, Ramadan. If there’s a way we can social distance and honor our traditions, we’re continuing to work on that. We have to be smart about how we go about our daily business.
- Thanks to the legislature. Today they are working on workers comp legislation for first-responders who could come down with COVID-19. Still working on the funding mechanism for this legislation.
- Want to highlight the public/private partnerships in Minnesota. Special thanks to Cub Foods has partnered with Minnesota’s children’s cabinet to set up an ordering process to ensure that child care providers have access to everything they need (i.e. food, cleaning supplies, things for infants).
- MN is multi-tasking on many fronts. The governor will soon be signing an executive order to put the National Guard on duty to help with spring flooding in Marshall County.
- Thanks to our public utilities who have committed to not cutting off gas and power to Minnesotans. Over 100 utilities have stepped up and volunteered to do so.
- The affordability of insulin is still an issue. In this moment of problem-solving, “I think we’re going to get there, in the very near future, on an emergency insulin bill.”
Update from Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, just under 1.5 million COVID-19 cases, 76,000 deaths
- 370,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with 11,000 deaths.
- In Minnesota, 1,069 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Four more COVID-19 deaths, for a total of 34 in Minnesota.
- The more recent four were residents of long-term care facilities.
- As of today, 549 patients have been released from isolation after testing positive for COVID-19
- 120 patients still in the hospital. 64 of the 120 are in ICU
- Looking at the rate at which COVID-19 cases are doubling — we’re happy to note that MN is seeing a slower rate of doubling than we anticipated. In the first few weeks of March, we were seeing the Minnesota case total double every 1 to 2 days. But since the week of March 18, we saw the doubling rate slow to once every eight days. That’s good news. It tells us that social distancing and other mitigations are having a positive impact.
- We’re getting questions about how COVID-19 is affecting Minnesota’s diverse populations. Our early data doesn’t give us much to go on. What we can say is that based on other information we know, severe illness goes up with underlying health conditions. We absolutely expect and know that COVID-19 could disproportionally effect African Americans and Native Americans due to their underlying health conditions.
Update from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly:
- We are supporting to procurement team as they get needed supplies and equipment
- Work with FEMA and local emergency management colleagues continues
- We still have to worry about natural disasters — flooding along the Red River.
Update from Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove:
- Removing barriers to help people get the unemployment insurance benefits they deserve
- We’re ramping up our resources in languages other than English so people from all backgrounds can get the help they need.
- Thanks to the governor’s executive order last night, we were able to clear all 45,000 of those stuck applications in our queue.
- Got 7,000 calls yesterday, that’s 800 calls per hour. We encourage folks to go to the website, but we’ll keep the call line open.
- Our team is working hard
- We’re up to 355,108 applications for unemployment insurance. That’s 11.4% of Minnesota’s total labor force.
- Yesterday we saw 13,424 applicants for unemployment insurance.
- Clarification on CARES Act $600 payment… still waiting on guidance from the federal government. Reminder to Minnesotans that you don’t have to do anything to receive that payment.
- Demographics of unemployment insurance:
- Since March 16, 19 percent of people of color have applied for unemployment insurance, compared to 9.5 percent of the white working age population and labor force, so the disparities exist. DEED is working to make the system as usable as possible for all kinds of groups. Also, doing outreach efforts to communities of color so they know how to use the system.
- Working to choose lenders in their network that focus on communities of color. Half of the loans we’ve authorized through the state small business emergency loan program have gone to lenders that specifically serve business owners of color.
- Age group: younger age groups dominate the number of claims that have come through
- 50.4 percent applicants are women, 49.5 percent are men.
Will the Shelter in Place Order be Extended?
During the question and answer portion with reporters, Governor Walz said “I think it’s already pretty clear that we will continue with heading down our stay at home order, but using the data to refine that in a way that makes sense.”
The governor said he would provide more information tomorrow, but he said he’s gathering data from experts such as health providers, epidemiologists, state economists and people in the business community.
“I think there’s a Minnesota way to do this,” Gov. Walz said. “And I think there’s a way to save all the lives that we need to save, and to have that hospital capacity there while starting to think about ways to get smartly and focused back into it.”
When asked by another reporter about whether many of the recently unemployed can go back to work, the governor responded by saying, “What I would tell them is, perhaps and maybe you can. And that’s what we’re trying to figure out without risking what we’ve done. I mean, the best case scenario in this is if we avoid what happened in New York City, if we avoid the Italy situation, and we’re able to get the care. That’s a great situation. But I want to be very clear, I am deeply aware of the economic pain that leads to social pain that can lead to health pains for people.”
The governor, however, admitted that he’s nervous about the lack of COVID-19 testing and said many things could change in the coming weeks.
“If there is any possibility at all of getting you back into that workforce, without increasing the chance of spread or tapping out our health care system, that is what our intent is, to do it smartly” he said. “And that is listening to a whole bunch of different data points.”
Other notes from the conference call:
- Despite the major holidays coming up, the governor doesn’t want any large gatherings for religious services. They’re working with religious leaders on ways to observe without putting people in danger.
- Commissioner Malcolm said the state is trying to build up added capacity for the surge of patients. The health systems are looking to redeploy health care workers from other parts of the system and train them on what needs to be done. Meanwhile, the state is looking to tap into the volunteer spirit of currently licensed professionals, along with retirees and folks who are just ready to graduate to see how they can be quickly brought into the field.
- Governor Walz says he is now wearing a mask when he goes out and he encourages others to do so as well.
See Yesterday’s Update Here