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Latest on COVID-19 in Minnesota: Shelter-in-place order would last 'multiple weeks to months'

Mar 18, 2020 11:31AM ● By Editor

Lori Musial (center) helps load meals on a bus to be delivered to students Monday at North High School in North St. Paul. Schools have temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak to prepare for distance learning.  Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From News Staff at Minnesota Public Radio News - March 24, 2020

Minnesota had 262 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, up from 235 Monday. The state continued to report only one death from the disease. 

Fifteen patients are currently hospitalized out of a total of 21 since the pandemic reached the state; 88 patients who tested positive no longer need to be isolated, the state Health Department said in its daily update on the disease.

Across Minnesota, hospitals are racing now to prepare for an expected spike in patient care as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads. The Minnesota Hospital Association said it was pulling together plans to gather medical masks and inventory ventilators.

A Twin Cities team is working “to collect and get a visual on where this equipment is, where it should be warehoused, who needs it most and how to distribute it,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, the hospital association president. “A lot is going on and we are actively preparing day and night.”

Koranne said it was too early to tell whether cases in Minnesota will exceed hospitals capacity to care for critically ill patients. He urged people to avoid personal contact to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Other updates Tuesday:

  • The system that lists homes for sale in Minnesota and helps connect real estate agents, buyers and sellers has stopped scheduling open houses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minnesota officials continue to be concerned that community spread is happening throughout the state. 

They project between 40 and 80 percent of Minnesotans will be infected with COVID-19 before the pandemic lets up, Gov. Tim Walz said Monday, as he considered more aggressive measures to curb the new coronavirus' spread.

While the "vast majority" of those cases would be mild, Walz said, he is still considering a shelter-in-place order for the state. If enacted, he said its duration would “probably have to be more like multiple weeks to months."

Asked Monday about whether Minnesota would cancel school for the year, Walz said: "As the situation evolves it may become necessary to do that." For now, he wants virtual and distance learning to take root.

Public health officials continue to say the number of Minnesotans with COVID-19 is actually much higher than the reported number because testing remains limited to the highest-risk patients.

On Monday, the governor and other state leaders made several other announcements concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and the government's response: 

  • A small-business loan program beginning later this week could make up to 5,000 businesses eligible for loans between $2,500 and $35,000.

  • Walz's revised budget request seeks an additional $356 million for coronavirus response.

  • Elective veterinary services are halted to preserve the stock of personal protective equipment, or PPEs.

  • The National Guard will disperse PPEs from Camp Ripley as officials develop a centralized system to manage Minnesota’s stock of the supplies. 

Officials pleaded with Minnesotans to stay home whenever possible, limit contact with others and wash their hands often.

"We should assume that [COVID-19 is] in all of our communities," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday.

To read the original story and related COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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