COVID-19 Update from Minnesota Governor and the MN Department of Health 3-27-2020
Minnesota COVID-19 Update from Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health 3-27-2020
As Minnesota prepares to begin a two-week stay at home order, Governor Tim Walz and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and other state agencies met with news media via conference call on Friday, March 27 for an update on Minnesota’s response to COVID-19.
Update from Governor Walz:
- Minnesota had two more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to four.
- The number of confirmed cases in MN is now at 398, 60 of those required hospitalization.
- Fairview systems have announced over the last 24 hours that they’re bringing 90 of their beds up at the Bethesda Hospital to be ready for COVID.
- We’re increasing access to ventilators. We have 1,268 adult ventilators at this time and we are working on procuring what we believe is going to be needed.
- Increased testing, and that will be new forms of testing. And we’re discussing internally the antibody testing, which we’ll be able to, in the next phase as we continue to talk about, find out who’s had it, recovered, and is in a good spot.
- We’re addressing the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, which is a top priority across the state. Unfortunately across the nation.
- Plan for how to care for the most vulnerable once we get through the next few months
- And assess new data that comes in with the idea to see which parts of our strategy are working and which are not.
- At 11:59 p.m., our stay at home executive order goes into effect.
- Traffic accidents are down 49 percent in Minnesota over the last two weeks.
- The legislature did amazing work in approving an aid package to help Minnesotans affected by COVID-19
- Created emergency funds to operate the state during this time.
- Helped businesses secure private funding
- awarded grants to licensed and family-based childcare
- Ensured continued funding of our food system
- Provided help to local governments, tribal governments nonprofits and especially to those most vulnerable with food and homelessness.
- There’s a few Executive Orders to make the functioning of Minnesota work better
- 20-21 clarifies executive order 20-07 that includes Minnesota’s constitutional officers to make sure that leave policies are in line with the rest of state government.
- 20-22 authorizes the state auditor to temporarily suspend reporting requirements.
- 20-23 authorizing health-related licensing boards to modify some requirements.
- 20-24 emergency relief for motor carriers, specifically dealing with moving the food supply to market.
- We have 109 National Guard troops helping with the COVID-19 response in Minnesota.
- More than 650 state employees have been reassigned to go to places where they’re needed.
- Metro Mobility is now delivering meals to our most vulnerable.
Update from Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- We are now at four confirmed deaths due to COVID-19. All of these people have been in their eighties.
- Globally, we are at more than 550,000 cases, and nearly 25,000 deaths.
- The U.S. has surpassed China and Italy in confirmed cases at over 86,000.
- A total of over 1,300 deaths in the U.S.
- We are close to 400 confirmed cases in MN, which is an uptick of 52 laboratory-confirmed cases since Thursday.
- Since the start of the outbreak, 44 COVID-19 patients in Minnesota have been hospitalized, and the rest of the patients have been outpatient, recovering at home.
- There are 34 patients currently hospitalized, 14 in ICU.
- This total of almost 400 lab-confirmed cases is only the tip of the iceberg. We know there are more cases in Minnesota.
Update from Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious disease at the MDH
- We are starting to see cases in congregate living settings.
- Three of our deaths have been individuals who resided in those congregate living settings.
- We have 17 congregate care sites that have at least one case.
- We began having weekly calls with long term care facilities on March 4.
- After that first call we put out a resource document that we put out to all participants.
- This week’s call had over 1,500 attendees. We’re providing guidance to them on visitation restrictions, infection prevention activities that facilities can undertake, etc.
- We’ve developed a process for investigating outbreaks. We have an epidemiologic team that immediately contacts a facility when a case is confirmed to provide consultation. We review the potential exposures from the case, we identify potential staff exposures, and health care exposures, and we make recommendations to limit transmission.
- We also have an infection prevention team that does a virtual assessment of the facilities’ infection control practices and works with them to implement best practices. A nurse case manager is assigned to the facility and is in daily contact with them to expedite requests for Personal Protective Equipment and address infection prevention questions and issues.
- We provide facilities with a template notification letter that they can use as well as talking points as they’re working with residents and families.
- We have worked with the state emergency operations center to get personal protective equipment in the facilities with cases. The current dispersement is 205 surgical masks and 150 face shields per week.
- We have asked all of the facilities to follow CDC guidance which includes isolating cases, increasing the assessment of residents for fever and respiratory symptoms, assessing staff for fever and respiratory systems, and practicing enhanced infection control procedures throughout the facility.
- Our biggest challenge is the lack of Personal Protective Equipment, we would like all staff to be wearing surgical masks to limit transmission of disease. We are continuing to work with the state operations center on alternative face masks.
Update from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly:
- The governor mentioned the work we’re doing to help expand MN’s health care system for the challenges that are ahead. Our alternate care site planning team conducted an initial visit of two facilities that could be potentially used as temporary hospitals for noncritical patients.
- This is a challenging event because we don’t know what the virus is going to do next.
- We have a simple request — 911 call centers are experiencing an incredible volume of calls, especially regarding compliance of the stay at home order. Please don’t call 911. Call the state information hotline instead.
- Please volunteer if you are able. Donate blood. Donate to charities.
Update from Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove:
- Stay at home order… we’re getting a lot of questions about what this means. Many of the answers are at www.mn.gov/deed/critical
- If I work at a business that’s not deemed “critical,” is it okay for me to go into this business to pick something up? Yes, yes it is. Just use your common sense.
- Unemployment insurance, we got a lot of people into the pipeline early to get the help they need.
- 204,158 unemployment insurance applications since March 16. We expect to be over 220,000 by the end of today. That’s more unemployment insurance applications than all of 2019 combined.
- Please be patient with us as we process these applications. It’s an unprecedented volume.
- The Department of Public Safety is helping to make sure there isn’t unemployment insurance fraud.
- The small business emergency loan program that the governor established via executive order will be available starting next week.
- Thanks to the state legislature, we have additional support, a loan guarantee program that’s going to open up a lot of private sector dollars too, based on some guarantees the state can give to some of those loans for companies of 250 or smaller employees. We expect that program to be up and running late next week.
- We’re monitoring the federal legislation on COVID-19 relief closely. Once the president signs the bill, we’ll make sure those resources are available to Minnesota businesses as fast as possible.
Update from Minnesota Deputy Education Secretary Heather Mueller:
- Total number of meals served — 819,577 meals served over the last seven days.
- Free Meals for Kids app is a way to access free meals for children 18 and under. Find it online at www.hungerimpactpartners.org
- Monday is the first day of the distance learning period. Our educators are ready for this. We have been trained to be experts and professionals to deliver instruction on a variety of platforms.
- The implementation of distance learning will not be seamless. But it’s better than doing nothing.
- We don’t want parents to try to be teachers during this distance learning period.
One question was posed to the governor about license and tab renewals. The governor said, “If you have to go in to get the license, don’t do it now…. we want Minnesotans to know there’s going to be some leeway in this. We’re not gonna put people at risk, but if your license expires in 30 days we’ll get through this and get it fixed.”
Meanwhile, the governor also addressed a question about whether construction sites would be shut down.
“At this point in time, and I was on the phone this morning with our building and trades representatives, a lot of our construction trades. We have not shut many of them down,” Gov. Walz said.
The governor added that many construction sites have brought in infectious disease professionals to assess the situations.
Meanwhile, another question came in about whether golf courses would be shut down. The governor said, “we are still discussing this.”