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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Schools likely closed for the year

Apr 03, 2020 05:51AM ● By Editor
Chef J.D. Fratzke packs containers of chickpea curry stew on Tuesday at Jackson Elementary School. A group of local chefs are cooking and serving 1,000 hot lunches to St. Paul Public Schools families this week.  Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 3, 2020

There's a "relatively slim" chance of Minnesota school buildings reopening this year, Gov. Tim Walz said, calling it a "heartbreaking" situation for families and students, especially those in the 2020 graduating class. 

His announcement came as state officials continued scrambling to find medical and laboratory supplies as COVID-19 continues sending more Minnesotans to the hospital. 

The latest numbers from Thursday: 

  • 742 positive cases via 22,394 tests

  • 18 deaths

  • 75 people in the hospital; 38 in intensive care units

  • 373 patients recovered

  • 47 is the median case age

  • 25-98 is the age range for cases requiring intensive care

  • 31 percent of cases caused by community transmission

A graph showing the number of COVID-19 positive cases to date

At least financially, coronavirus patients could get some relief. Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley told reporters Thursday that the participating plans — including Blue Cross, HealthPartners and Medica — have agreed to waive in-network cost-sharing for treatment of COVID-19 at least through May.

"If you get sick with COVID-19, your focus should only be on getting better and recovering,” he said “You shouldn't have to worry about getting a bill that could ruin you financially, especially during this difficult time.”

The health plans have not committed to cover sharing costs for out-of-network service but the Commerce Department continues to talk with them about it, Kelley added.

A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status
A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status.
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

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Developments from around the state

Minneapolis park pools, beaches won't open this summer

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board announced Thursday that it won't open the city's beaches, wading pools and water parks this summer because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the park board said "the level of public congregation that takes place at aquatic facilities and the level of staff required to operate these facilities will make it impossible to open and manage these facilities safely this summer."

Restrooms in city parks also will remain closed, though some portable toilets will be available.

Officials also announced that all Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spring and summer events are canceled through Aug. 31, including spring and summer sports leagues that can't follow social distancing rules. And most seasonal and temporary summer jobs in Minneapolis parks will not be filled this year.

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden also will remain closed, because its narrow paths don't allow for social distancing.

Parks and trails, including off-leash dog parks, remain open in Minneapolis, though officials urged people to follow social distancing rules. Find more information here

— Andrew Krueger | MPR News

U plan to refund student fees draws scrutiny

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel will present a proposal to regents on Friday for refunding student fees after some students complained about being shortchanged. 

The university earlier said it would issue a flat credit of $1,200 for housing and dining fees to students who had to move off campus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

But U of M students typically pay more than $5,000 per semester for room and board. Some students circulated online petitions urging the U to refund a larger amount. 

One state legislator said he planned to draft a bill requiring Minnesota's colleges and universities to refund at least 90 percent of students' unused room and board costs.

— Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

Top headlines

Minnesota women applying for unemployment at higher rates than men: Women made up 54 percent of unemployment insurance applicants the last week of March. Earlier in the month, women were 63 percent of applicants. Employment officials think the numbers may even out as more male-dominated fields like manufacturing and construction see job cuts.

U of M designers build prototypes to fill the urgent need for masks, ventilators: Medical school researchers, staff from the College of Science and Engineering and the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel recently teamed up to create masks that health care workers can use in a pinch. Scientists from 3M, which makes N95 respirator masks, advised the team and the U is now testing its prototype masks. Meanwhile, a different team of U of M researchers has developed a simplified ventilator that they hope can be used, if hospitals run out of high-tech breathing devices.

Ad says economic hit is worse than the threat of COVID-19. Is that true? A newspaper ad reiterates the idea that the economic hit from using social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19 is worse than letting the virus run its course with less stringent mitigation efforts. But is that true? We talked with the ad’s author, Kevin Roche, and experts about the claim and some of his other statements about the virus.

Tech frustrations, inequity and silver linings: Minnesota’s first week of distance learning: As hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students attempted to learn from home this week, the experiment was punctuated by widespread technology failures, overwhelmed parents and deepening inequities.

COVID-19 in Minnesota

Health officials for weeks have been increasingly raising the alarm over the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States. The disease is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases by age
A graph showing the median age of Minnesota COVID-19 patients

Government and medical leaders are urging people to wash their hands frequently and well, refrain from touching their faces, cover their coughs, disinfect surfaces and avoid large crowds, all in an effort to curb the virus’ rapid spread.

The state of Minnesota has temporarily closed schools, while administrators work to determine next steps, and is requiring a temporary closure of all in-person dining at restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as theaters, gyms, yoga studios and other spaces in which people congregate in close proximity.

To read the original article and see more COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.
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