5-6-2020 COVID-19 Update from the MN Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Update 5-6-2020
The Minnesota Department of Health conference call briefs the public on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- 3.7 million cases, 258,000 deaths globally; 1.2 million cases, 71,000 deaths in U.S. (no updates from New York)
- 8,579 confirmed cases in MN (up 728); 485 deaths (up 30 since yesterday, a new daily high – 24 involve residents of long-term care facilities). 7 deaths in age 90s, 15 in 80s, 6 in 70s, 1 in 60s and 1 in 50s.
- The latest deaths include a worker, in the 50s age range, at the JBS meat-packing plant in Worthington
- Two food plants in Stearns County are also among the seven meat processing facilities statewide with COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Cases in all but five Minnesota counties
- Of the 485 deaths so far, 391 involved residents of long-term care facilities.
- Minnesota’s death toll is now higher than Wisconsin (353 COVID-19 deaths in Wis. as of May 4), long-term care facility deaths attributed to that.
- 443 people hospitalized in MN as of Wednesday morning, 180 in intensive care.
- Median age of all cases in MN so far is 46; median age of death is 83 — with a range from 30 to 109 (mostly all deaths had underlying health conditions)
- Reports 5,223 tests by public and private labs. However, MDH reports technical glitch impacting last couple of days in testing counts. (Reports 5,223 tests today, but about 2,000 of those from day prior).
- (Gov. Tim Walz’s goal was 5,000 tests per day this week. Walz is aiming to reach 20,000 tests per day in three to four weeks)
- Today is kickoff to National Nurses Week
MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann:
- COVID-19 has produced a higher rate of deaths among elderly patients and those with underlying health problems such as diabetes, asthma, compromised immune systems, and diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys.
- As many as 80% of people suffer mild or no symptoms
- Discussed the importance of child vaccinations. Immunizations have fallen due to the pandemic. Reminds parents to reach out to your health care provider to keep up-to-date on well visits.
MN Dept. of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis:
- Gov. Walz established critical care supply work group in mid-March to address PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage, set up warehouse to purchase and collect millions of pieces of PPE. State’s data dashboard tracks PPE.
- Hospitals should be maintaining their supplies, but state can help replenish those supplies.
- “Stay-at-home order bought us valuable time,” said Roberts-Davis.
- Team up at 3 a.m. making calls to procure PPE
- Current “burn rate” over past 10 days is 9,000 face shields a day, 877,000 gloves a day, 37,000 gowns a day, 93,000 masks a day, and 11,000 N95 respirators a day
- Still seeing spikes in prices for goods. More consistently getting face masks, face shields and gloves. However, N95 respirator masks more challenging.
Q&A Session and Other Notes:
- On need for contact tracing and dramatic increase in need. MN House considering funding contact tracer program. MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm: we’re learning more about asymptomatic spread. “There are wide ranges of estimates of what would be needed,” she said. Estimates range from 1 contact tracer to every 100 cases, down to 1 for every 10. More than 50 languages spoken at JBS Plant in Nobles County caused lengthy contact tracing process there.
- Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person and subsequent collection of further information about these contacts.
- What about guidelines for serology tests? (These tests help determine immunity). Malcolm: Many serology tests have hit market that don’t produce great results. Quality is dubious. Much of it is not FDA approved. U of M and Mayo Clinic at leading edge of serology testing. Expects to release more guidance soon.
- Ehresmann: Serology testing looks at antibody levels in your blood. Working with partners going forward.
- Senator Housley wrote letter to MDH seeking guidance for long-term care facilities. She cited 50 percent of deaths in New York and Florida are at long-term care facilities. In Minnesota, it’s 80 percent. Why is MN doing worse at these facilities? Malcolm: There’s no national official count of long-term care cases. Minnesota has much broader reporting of cases, believes Malcolm, not just skilled nursing home facilities, doesn’t believe it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. Minnesota includes assisted living, group homes, adult foster case, treatment facilities, said Malcolm. However, Malcolm believes there’s room for improvement. “There’s a lot of digging to do to get good numbers,” said Malcolm.
- Mushrooming number of cases in Clay County (215 cases, 14 deaths). Why? Ehresmann: it’s a congregate care issue, involving senior care and homeless shelters.
- Is it risky to put someone back in a long-term care facility after recovering from COVID-19? Ehresmann: it’s important to keep in mind that 1) have these individuals moved past their infectious period and 2) do facilities where they resided have capacity to care for them safely.
- Also expect to rerun model sometime this week to determine if Minnesota is “flattening the curve.”
- Wuhan, China reportedly had 9,000 contact tracers for city of 11 million. Minnesota has 5.5 million people, 4,500 contact tracers needed? Malcolm: “The numbers have certainly grown,” as we’ve learned about asymptomatic spread. Attempt to do contact tracing in a variety of ways. “We’re working to increase the involvement of our local public health colleagues,” said Malcolm. “That’s been a priority.”
- Ehresmann: As of Monday, we had 150 case investigators, adding another 160 this week. Continues to adjust based on increased testing.
- Significant jump in Stearns County, with 2 poultry plants there. Malcolm: Stearns County Public Health has been very proactive, significant work with the Somali community there. “A lot of testing” done there,” said Ehresmann.
- More per capita deaths due to COVID than neighboring states. Why so? Malcolm: says rate of testing at long-term care facilities is higher. It’s part of the reason, she said.
- Ehresmann: Starting April 1, put our energy into testing long-term care facilities. If state hadn’t been testing these facilities, wouldn’t have known about COVID deaths there. “We have really focused on this population, they are the population mostly likely to have complications and to die from COVID,” said Ehresmann. We would have a different picture if only tested workforce population. MDH “selectively testing” in most vulnerable populations, she said. Believes underreporting of cases is going on at long-term care facilities in other states.
- What about excess deaths in official COVID counts (meaning underreported results)? Ehresmann: “I feel at this point we have a really good handle on what’s happening related to COVID deaths.” “We aren’t missing as many deaths as what could be the case happening in other parts of the country,” said Ehresmann.