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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: 30 dead, 57 in ICU, total cases near 1K

Apr 06, 2020 06:12AM ● By Editor
People walk and bike on the trails around Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Photo: Evan Frost | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 6, 2020

Thirty Minnesotans have now died from COVID-19, up one from Sunday, while 57 are hospitalized in intensive care, the state Health Department said Monday.

The agency said 986 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, 51 more than the day before. Just under half have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

Gov. Tim Walz, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and other state leaders are briefing reporters now on the latest efforts to stem the spread of the disease and prepare for an expected surge in cases and hospitalizations. 

Malcolm on Monday said Minnesotans are doing a good job overall staying home and helping slow COVID-19’s spread. However, she did note several concerns.

  • Concerns about listed facilities. Malcolm said she’s heard from institutions feeling unfairly singled out since the agency began listing specific group care facilities with at least one case. She said just because a facility has a case does not mean it is deficient and cautioned against misinterpreting the data.

  • Masks. Malcolm acknowledged federal guidance for people to wear face masks when going out but emphasized people not feeling well should still stay home and those going out should not be wearing medical-grade masks, which are in short supply among health workers. The makeshift masks “do not protect the wearer from acquiring the illness.”

  • Neglecting serous health matters. Malcolm said she’s concerned about reports that people possibly having strokes or heart attacks are not calling 911, concerned about going to the hospital. The health system is still prepared to handle those cases, she said. “We really want to make sure Minnesotans are not delaying care for serious conditions.”

The rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations come as Walz’s two-week stay-at-home order is set to expire on Friday. 

While no decision has been announced, the governor signaled last week that he may extend that order, possibly through April 30, based on guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Walz told reporters Monday afternoon that he's assessing sector-by-sector and expects to decide midweek on renewing the stay-at-home order. “I know that the unknowns in this make it so frustrating.”

A graph showing the number of COVID-19 positive cases to date
A graph showing the number of COVID-19 positive cases to date.
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Walz said that Minnesota is still preparing for a surge to hospitals even though the state has some of the lowest per capita infection rates among states, according to CDC statistics.

Beyond the updates on cases and deaths, the Health Department Monday noted:

  • Among those who have died in Minnesota, ages run from 58 to 100. The most recent: a 98-year-old Ramsey County person who’d been in an assisted living facility.

  • More than one-third of COVID-19 cases are now considered to have come from community spread, the greatest likely source of exposure to this point.

  • Sixty-two of 87 Minnesota counties now have at least one case. Murray and Redwood counties joined the list. 

  • Martin County on the Minnesota-Iowa border continues to account for the largest number of cases outside of the Twin Cities metro area and Rochester. The county has seen 33 cases and four deaths.

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

Minnesota health officials over the weekend released the names of long-term care facilities in the state linked to a positive COVID-19 case.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the positive test could be from a resident, staff person or contractor who was in the facility during their infectious period. Only facilities with 10 or more residents are listed, and she cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the facilities.

"This is not intended to suggest that these facilities are in any way not doing the right thing by their residents. It's simply being transparent," she said. "The fact that some facility is listed on our website does not mean necessarily that there is a flaming crisis within that facility."

The Health Department Monday also began listing deaths by county, including Hennepin with14, Martin with four and Ramsey with three. Dakota, Olmsted and Winona counties each have two deaths. Chisago, Scott and Washington each have one.

Walz addressed the ongoing pandemic in his State of the State address on Sunday night. Also on Sunday, Walz sent a letter to President Trump requesting a major disaster declaration for the state, in response to the pandemic.Developments from around the state

Legislature back in session Tuesday for workers comp bill

The Minnesota Legislature will come into session Tuesday to vote on the latest bill tied to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bill provides first responders and medical workers access to workers compensation payments if they contract COVID-19 and are unable to keep doing their jobs. It covers firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors and care providers in hospitals, clinics or other health settings. Correctional officers are also eligible.

If the Legislature passes the bill, it would take effect immediately.

Negotiations had been occurring for more than a week, and Gov. Tim Walz said he was prepared to extend the coverage through executive order if lawmakers couldn’t come to agreement.

But the deal struck over the weekend has the backing of DFL and Republican legislative leaders.

Lawmakers are expected to take precautions and keep Capitol attendance as low as possible during the session that starts at noon for the House and 2 p.m. for the Senate.

— Brian Bakst | MPR News

Navigating Holy Week celebrations amid the pandemic

Sunday was Palm Sunday — also observed by some as Passion Sunday. It marked the beginning of Holy Week. 

For Christians, the days leading up to Easter are among the most holy of the year. But those celebrations look very different under statewide orders to shelter in place. 

"One of the things we've had to sort out is how do you serve the assembly without the assembly there? Is virtual good enough?" asked Patrick Shebeck, senior pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul. "There are some theological potholes in that road." 

He said that while they're working to figure out a "theologically sound" way to navigate those potholes, it's important to give each other grace during the transition.

He said he hopes that his church will find comfort in one thing: "The story is the same. We are just celebrating those things and observing them in a different way this year. But the story remains constant. "

"This is not the first time the church has been through a pandemic. It's the first time we've been through a pandemic, but it's not the first time the church has been through a pandemic."

— Marcheta Fornoff | MPR News

Cases increasing in neighboring states

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota approaches 1,000, neighboring Wisconsin has seen more than twice as many cases.

As of Sunday, Wisconsin health officials reported 2,267 confirmed cases and 68 deaths due to COVID-19.

That's an increase of more than 30 deaths over the weekend.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Saturday that the federal government has issued a major disaster declaration for Wisconsin.

To the south, Iowa reported 868 confirmed cases and 22 deaths as of Sunday. That's an increase of 83 confirmed cases and eight deaths in one day.

To the west, North Dakota reported 207 confirmed cases and three deaths as of Sunday, while South Dakota reported 240 cases and two deaths.

— MPR News staff

Charges filed for violations of Minnesota executive orders

At least eight people in Minnesota are facing misdemeanor charges after prosecutors say they violated executive orders meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

In a series of directives in recent weeks, Gov. Tim Walz closed bars and restaurants, then schools, and then ordered Minnesotans to stay home.

David Schuster, 57, of Winnebago, Minn., was the first person charged with violating one of these orders. Faribault County prosecutors said he refused a police officer's request to close Schooter's Bar and Grill March 22, allegedly saying "this is communism." 

Schuster could not be reached for comment. But ACLU of Minnesota Legal Director Teresa Nelson said criminal charges should be a last resort.

"That means doing education, giving people warnings, and trying to seek voluntary compliance," she said.

The Minnesota Judical Branch said seven other people in seven counties are facing similar charges. Nelson said that in some cases, the misdemeanors were added to charges for other crimes.

— Matt Sepic | MPR News

Ellison files enforcement action against Minnesota landlord

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed an enforcement action against a landlord in Pine County who allegedly disconnected utilities at his tenants’ home during the governor’s stay-at-home order.

In a press release, Ellison’s office claimed that Howard Mostad entered his tenants’ home in Sandstone against their wishes and disconnected their electricity, an attempt to pressure the tenants to vacate the property.

Ellison said that’s a violation of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order meant to protect tenants from being evicted during the state’s COVID-19 peacetime emergency.

Among other things, Ellison’s office is seeking civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation and restitution for the residents.

“Most people, businesses and landlords are doing the right thing during the crisis,” Ellison said in a statement. “For those landlords who aren’t, let this case serve as a warning to you: If you take illegal actions to force your tenants to vacate their property during this emergency, my office will take swift and strong action against you.”

Ellison’s office has a hotline for people who think they are being wrongly evicted during the coronavirus emergency.

Walz’s office halted evictions during the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March.

The Minnesota Multi Housing Association, the state’s primary landlord association, is also asking its members to adhere to the executive order, calling on rental property owners to halt evictions on renters, waive late fees and provide residents with more flexible payment plans until May 31.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News

Top headlines

Minnesota bracing for possible budget deficit because of COVID-19: The fiscal chaos stirred by the coronavirus is so worrisome that a new economic forecast will be ordered to get a better handle on the problem and clear the use of the state’s rainy day reserves. It’s a stunning reversal from just a month ago, when officials forecast a projected surplus of $1.5 billion that would pile up by July 2021.

Is it safe — and ethical — to send your child to day care?Parents of Minnesota’s littlest learners are facing a dilemma: Do they continue sending their kids to child care during the COVID-19 pandemic? Minnesota’s stay-at-home order does not prohibit families from taking their kids to day care, but officials note that the goal is to keep providers open specifically for the children of emergency workers.

Minn. nonprofits serving people with disabilities hustle to stay connected: For arts organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t upended their mission to use the creative arts to help people with disabilities lead richer, fuller lives. But it does mean getting creative with how to deliver their services, even as they worry about their financial future.

Even outside on a trail, 6 feet of distance is necessary: The stay-at-home order allows people to go outside; most parks and trails remain open in Minnesota. However, open spaces and fresh air don’t guarantee safety from COVID-19. Here’s some advice from the DNR and health experts for following the governor’s order and staying safe outside.

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