5-21-2020 COVID-19 Update from the MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 5-21-2020
On Thursday, May 21, the Minnesota Department of Health held a conference call to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19.
The following is a summary of that media briefing.
MN Stay Safe Safety Plan released Wednesday
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Globally, topped 5 million cases, 328,000 deaths. In U.S., 1.55 million cases, nearly 93,000 deaths
- 18,200 confirmed MN cases, (up 539 cases), sixth straight day of fewer new cases, but don’t expect that trend to continue.
- 32 new MN deaths reported, a new daily high (total now at 809 MN deaths). 1,000 deaths predicted by end of May. 28 of 32 deaths in long-term care facilities.
- 566 patients currently hospitalized for COVID-19 (+16), 229 in ICU (+17)
- Minnesota among minority of states still peaking. As governor mentioned previously, this due to more restrictive stay-at-home orders in early onset of pandemic across U.S.
- Averaging 6,400 tests of COVID-19 symptomatic cases per week (6,200 completed yesterday). Goal is 20,000 by June. 1. Malcolm encourages more people to get tested if they feel sick.
- To get tested for COVID-19: https://mn.gov/covid19/for-minnesotans/if-sick/index.jsp
- Many conditions put people at higher risk for COVID-19: including high-blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity.
- MDH officials have said hospital impact of allowing outdoor dining, hair salons to reopen, and retail at 50% capacity wouldn’t show up for two weeks to 21 days after June 1
- Completed testing for 39 long-term care facilities (LTC) across the state, (7,000 residents and staff.) Testing 30 LTC facilities over next week. Completed all infection surveys at nursing homes earlier this spring.
- MN National Guard will aid in testing, PPE distribution, staffing support. Guard members in staffing support are trained medical professionals. Staffing is a “systemic issue” built up over period of years.
- Has a toolkit distributed to 2,500 facilities to help reduce spread.
- Reiterates how important it is to wear a mask when out in public.
MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann:
- Safest way to observe graduations is to stay home through virtual ceremonies. If doing car parades, participants must stay in cars. Graduations in stadiums not permitted due to unpredictability of social interaction.
- “We wish we could be doing graduations,” says Ehresmann, but health guidance not possible at this time
- Mentioned case that defied order. (confirmed later during Q&A session this case was in Minnesota). A positive COVID-19 individual participated in set up for ceremony. Two individuals exposed during setup then participated in a ceremony. Now contact tracing for community transmission, said Ehresmann.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield:
- Serology tests look at whether someone developed antibodies for SARS-coV-2, some of these tests don’t have great specificity, said Lynfield. (These tests determine whether someone previously exposed to the novel coronavirus). Want to make sure there’s a true positive or true negative.
- State partnering with U of M and Mayo Clinic to validate serological testing. These tests have indicated great deal of specificity, said Lynfield.
- Serology tests determine how much of population exposed. Collecting plasma of Memorial Blood Centers banks to help determine exposure levels. People who donate blood tend to be healthier.
- A CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) study chooses households to collect information about symptoms and exposure. This collection totally voluntary. Will be done in 7 counties in state.
- Other studies looking at grocery workers and health care frontline workers, said Lynfield
- Cases defined as “community transmission” appear to have gone up by 2,000. Ehresmann: “Yesterday we completed a record number of interviews.” Makes difference what data looks like. “We have said there is a lot of community transmission happening.”
- What may happen with church services reopening? Malcolm: “We completely understand the desire for (people’s) reconnection with their faith communities.” Degree of community spread is not visible. We do know religious gatherings can pose special risks with spread. Hospitals are getting more full as we’re headed up curve. Stress the value of following guidance.
- Ehresmann: One discussion at her worship place, there’s concern about vulnerable groups, too much of a pull for vulnerable communities to attend. “What may seem okay for certain segment of population could have devastating effects for others.”
- Did MDH change on recommendation for indoor dining? Malcolm: There’s been multiple scenarios considered and evaluated. Governor has heard us talk through a range of options. Won’t comment on initial question.
- MN State Fair? State says MN State Fair will make recommendation to governor. Even if past peak, there would still be great deal of community spread, says Malcolm. MDH not making recommendation.
- Ceremony was planned in Minnesota that was against state guidance. Ehresmann: can confirm that. This planning led to some COVID-19 cases, Ehresmann said. Couldn’t reveal school or location. MDH is following up for contact tracing.