4-9-2020: COVID-19 Update from MN Governor Tim Walz and MDH
MN Governor Walz to Join Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 4-9-2020
On Thursday, April 9, 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 11 COVID-19-related deaths yesterday, bringing our total to 50 fatalities.
- Thanks to Minnesotans for abiding by the stay at home order, we need to continue social distancing and washing our hands, especially during this holiday week.
- Department of Revenue announced we are extending the grace period on the sales and use tax for businesses such as bars, restaurants and places of amusement. They will be pushed off until May 20.
- Executive Order issued that allows trucks to get out and do pumping services associated with septic tanks.
- Executive Order issued that authorizes the Commissioner of Health to suspend certain requirements that fall under their regulatory authority. Basically what this does is it allows for bed moratoriums, making sure we’re upping the right numbers for our surge capacity and those freestanding alternate care sites.
- Spoke with tribal leaders in Minnesota this morning.
- Spoke with rural co-operatives to make sure that the power stays on during this time for its members.
- Spoke to folks in transportation, freight train and transit operators, they ask for everyone’s cooperation and patience (wear face masks, board via back doors)
- MNDOT is participating in global “Light it Blue” campaign. The 35W bridge and other landmark buildings will be lit blue to give thanks to our heroes, such as health care workers and other essential workers.
Update from Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, total of 1.5 Million cases of COVID-19, and near 90,000 deaths
- More than 432,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 15,000 deaths
- In Minnesota, 1,242 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Minnesota’s case doubling rate has remained stable (how many days it takes to double the rate of growth). It it still at eight days.
- We had our largest number of deaths related to COVID-19, 11 new deaths for a total of 50. Three people in their 70s, four in their 80s, and four in their 90s. The deaths continue to skew toward the elderly.
- As of today, 145 patients currently in the hospital, and 63 of those patients are in the ICU.
- On April 2, the CDC’s national vital statistics system published specific guidance on how to report the cause of death on death certificates for cases involving COVID-19. There can be a lot of variation in how cause of death information is recorded, and it’s really important that there’s as much consistency as we can get on this because that accuracy helps us get a better understanding of the real prevalence of this disease. The CDC wanted to be quite specific.
- The MDH office of vital records has been working to ensure that deaths will be counted as confirmed COVID-19 deaths only when the information that a medical certifier provides in a written cause of death statement explicitly mentions COVID-19, not counting other variations like corona infection due to pandemic or non-standard abbreviations like Cov. And so who is a medical certifier? That is physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants.
- The only people who can retroactively change the cause of death statement on filed death records are the medical certifier.
- The MDH office of vital records staff facilitate the correction process, but we do not make changes without that documentation and involvement of the medical certifier.
- Correcting a record to ensure accuracy is important to the MDH and it’s important for public health and for families, that’s why we’re doing the extra investigation to try to correct the records where it’s possible to do. There is absolutely no policy or political motivation to increase the number of deaths that are reported.
- We ask people to help clear up this confusion around the guidance and why it is that we are trying to ensure that the death totals are as accurate as can be.
Update from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly:
- Sent another request to FEMA yesterday to approve non-congregate sheltering for COVID-19. State want to be able to be reimbursed to for those costs. This is important so that people have a safe space to quarantine if they test positive for the virus.
Update from Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove:
- Working to get people back into the labor market
- We’re talking to business leaders, labor leaders, etc.
- MN was the first state in the country to authorize the $600 payment associated with the CARES Act. We’ve processed more than 200,000 of those payments.
- 18,762 unemployment insurance applications yesterday
- Encourage people to go to UIMN.org, but people can still call in. The wait time is about an hour. Calling in the morning is best.
- Total of 385,318 unemployment insurance applications since March 16.
- Top occupational groups are food preparation and serving, sales and service, health care, office administrative support, and production.
- There is a lot of hiring happening, however. People can find more information at careerforcemn.org.
Question and Answer Portion of the Call:
Governor Walz received a question about whether the stay at home order could be extended even further if the peak is supposed to happen in July.
“It’s impossible to social distance at this level for a longer extended period of time. So we have to, as the process goes on, get smarter, and that’s part of our strategy,” Gov. Walz said.
He went on to say that sheltering in place for eight months is not sustainable. “As new data and new inputs come in, we’re prepared to change on that.”
Commissioner Malcolm added to that, saying “Very likely, we will be, and we are, working on strategies. Because after the population-wide stay at home order is lifted, still continuing good social distancing practices, but continuing to suggest a stronger degree of social distancing for the most vulnerable populations.”
Meanwhile, the governor also received a question about Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka saying on Twitter:
I do not approve of the Governor’s unilateral decision to continue the order to shelter at home until May 4th. We have to get on with our lives.
— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) April 9, 2020
The governor responded by saying, “I’m listening to the health care executives, the health care experts, I’m listening to Mayo Clinic, I’m using numerous data points from outbreaks elsewhere and looking as this evolves. It has been 13 days since we issued the initial stay at home order, and I’ve made clear that we are continuing to use the newest data and chart a course that allows us to vastly increase our testing and get folks back in.”
“If they believe the Mayo Clinic is wrong, if they believe all nine of the health care associations are wrong, if they believe that the CDC is wrong, if they believe that the President’s guidance from the administration is wrong, and if they believe 42 other states are wrong, then I value their opinion to say so. But we can’t go on a hunch. And I hope that I am as wrong as can be about the needs on those beds, but all of the data shows me that I cannot risk that at this time, but I’m trying to find that line with Minnesotans’ cooperation that we can restart the economy in a smart way.”
The governor took another question about whether North Dakota residents with cabins in Minnesota should be making the trip, even if they practice social distancing. “Well I don’t think travel in general is wise right now. I’m going to be talking to Governor Burgum this afternoon. We have a good relationship, we’re certainly friends, and we’ve shared data going onto this,” Governor Walz said. “I’m certainly not encouraging people to go to North Dakota or elsewhere.”
Another reporter asked a question about the COVID-19 outbreak at Smithfield Foods in South Dakota and whether the governor was concerned that there could be an impairment of the food supply with people becoming ill from COVID-19.
“At this point in time, we’re not hearing of any disruption to that supply chain, but I think you’ve hit right on it, that is our deep concern. Especially being home to so many of those. We are constantly talking to the major food manufacturers: General Mills, Cargill and Land O’Lakes and everyone else, about trying to figure this out.”
“My vision is that at each of these food producing plants, we would test every single person to see who’s already had [COVID-19]. We would test every single person if we thought there was a case to get immediate isolation. We would have infrared thermometers or walk-throughs at every door to these places, and that’s the way we could ensure to get back to work, cause we can’t just risk this,” Governor Walz said.