Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Latest on COVID-19 in MN: deaths jump to 50; 88 new cases

Apr 08, 2020 06:38AM ● By Editor
Mary Stewart, left, takes free gloves, a homemade mask and hand sanitizer from Jessie Begert, center, and Nina Johnson, right in the Cub Foods Parking Lot in North Minneapolis on Wednesday, April 8.  Photo: Evan Frost | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 9, 2020

Minnesota deaths tied to COVID-19 jumped to 50 on Thursday, 11 more than Wednesday, the largest one-day increase reported since the outbreak began.

Positive tests for the disease in Minnesota also leaped to 1,242, the state Health Department reported. At least one key indicator — the number of people in intensive care — remained stable at 63, down one from Tuesday and Wednesday.

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to brief reporters at 2 p.m. on the latest efforts to keep the disease from overwhelming the state’s health care system.

The new numbers come a day after Walz extended his stay-at-home order until May 4 while signaling that the coronavirus will continue altering Minnesotans’ lives long past that date.

“It’s not going to be a typical summer,” the governor told reporters Wednesday. 

Restaurants and bars will continue being limited to takeout-only under the order, but Walz said he has instructed his commissioners to create standards for reopening, with social distancing, parts of the economy. 

"I will not sacrifice the health of Minnesotans and the gains we've made,” the governor said.

The order’s goal is to help Minnesota buy time to manage the disease. Health care leaders support the move, Walz said, and it’s expected to push the peak of COVID-19 to mid-July. 

Minnesota will need at least 3,000 ICU beds now through July. Walz said Minnesotans must stay vigilant to avoid the worst of what has happened in other states. 

“We cannot rest easy,” he said. “This thing can explode overnight if you do not take the proper precautions.”

Concerns about the coronavirus leaching into rural Minnesota, where health resources are limited, are top of mind at the Health Department.

“We do know there is a lot of disease in our state that has yet to show up in the counts,” said state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

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

Walz said Minnesota continues struggling to get necessary testing supplies and protective gear for health workers.

He said Minnesota had arranged a deal with a private company to ship a stockpile of protection gear from China, but as it was being loaded, “The Chinese army surrounded it and said it’s not going anywhere.”

A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status

Some good news on that score came Wednesday when Steve Grove, Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development, said that an additional $600 weekly benefit from the federal government is on its way to nearly 200,000 applicants and should start to show up this week in Minnesota bank accounts.

Developments from around the state

North Dakota travel quarantine order exempts essential workers crossing state border

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is easing quarantine restrictions on people coming from areas with widespread COVID-19 cases.

Burgum had issued an order requiring a two-week quarantine for anyone returning to North Dakota from states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed as having widespread cases of coronavirus. 

This week, Minnesota was added to that list, causing a lot of confusion for people in communities along the border. 

On Wednesday, Burgum amended the quarantine order to exempt anyone who is an essential worker, a consumer buying essential supplies, or is engaging in outdoor activities, including driving for pleasure. 

Burgum said the goal was to quarantine snowbirds returning from states like Arizona or Florida, not to impose border restrictions between communities. 

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

COVID-19 cases up sharply in St. Louis County

St. Louis County in northeastern Minnesota has seen a significant jump in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county. 

As of Wednesday, 11 more people in the county have confirmed cases of COVID-19 — bringing the total number of cases in St. Louis County to 28. In two of the new cases, patients have been hospitalized. 

Many of the new cases are linked to St. Ann's Residence, an assisted living facility in Duluth.

"This is obviously very concerning. It’s a vulnerable population that St. Ann’s residence serves, and these are the situations we’ve been preparing for but hoping wouldn’t happen,” said Amy Westbrook, who directs the St. Louis County public health division. 

Older people and those with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects of the new coronavirus. Westbrook said the virus is also likely being spread by community transmission, which means health officials haven't been able to trace the origins of all the cases.

— Dan Kraker | MPR News

'It's unfair': Grocery workers not included in workers' comp bill

Grocery store workers say they're disappointed they won’t automatically qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they test positive for COVID-19. 

Under a bill the Legislature passed Tuesday, coronavirus infections would be presumed to be work-related for doctors, nurses, firefighters, home health, child care and many other workers.

Jennifer Christensen, president of the union representing about 6,000 workers at grocery stores in the east Twin Cities metro area and Duluth, said it’s unfair that grocery workers are not covered.

“The likelihood of our members catching the virus from a customer is pretty high. Many of our folks are working 60 hours a week,” Christensen said.

Christensen said that while many people get to isolate themselves, grocery store workers must go where people gather in large numbers.

— MPR News staff

MN hospitals, clinics receive $50M state emergency fund

The Minnesota Department of Health says hundreds of organizations across the state are getting money from the state to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz set aside $50 million for short-term emergency funding. Most of the money is going to the Twin Cities’ major hospital systems, including $5 million each for Fairview and Hennepin Healthcare; more than $4 million for Allina Health; and $3 million each for Essentia Health Care and St. Luke’s, based in Duluth. North Memorial Health Hospital is also getting more than $1 million.

The rest of the funding is being doled out to clinics, pharmacies, ambulances and medical transportation companies and tribal health services.

Nursing homes, among the hardest hit of the state’s care providers, are eligible for a separate $150 million in aid from the state.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

State weighs more tax filing relief for Minnesotans

The Minnesota Revenue Department remains in discussions about relaxing additional tax filing deadlines to give those financially affected by the coronavirus more breathing room.

Assistant Commissioner Justin Nieman told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday that the agency is weighing how to accommodate taxpayers while ensuring enough money comes in to operate state government during the crisis.

“We are taking this seriously,” Nieman said. “Now more than ever state and local governments are needed to perform essential services for the state. We recognize that maintaining it right now is difficult and may present challenges for both our taxpayers and preparers.”

Annual tax filers now have until July 15 to get their 2019 tax forms and payments in, but those who pay on a quarterly basis still have a looming deadline. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said those taxpayers deserve equal treatment and soon.

“I’m very disappointed in that non-answer,” Davids said. “We need to know this before April 15th and we’re just pushing the ball down towards disaster again.”Businesses are also seeking deadline flexibility, and property owners are voicing worry about an upcoming May 15 deadline for tax payments.

— Brian Bakst | MPR News

Mayo joins COVID-19 plasma trial

Mayo Clinic is one of dozens of medical centers launching a new effort to fight COVID-19, using plasma from people who’ve recovered from the disease.

Dr. Michael Joyner is directing the study at Mayo.

Mayo joins COVID-19 plasma trial
by Cathy Wurzer

"When people recover from COVID-19, they will have antibodies to help fight the virus. We’re then able to take the plasma which contains these antibodies, infuse it into patients who are in the midst of fighting the disease, and give their immune system a temporary boost," he said. 

Joyner said the technique dates back more than 100 years, and that a handful of initial tests of the effort have shown some promise. 

Researchers are looking for people who have had the coronavirus, but are no longer ill. Joyner said the treatment could be used to help protect health workers, keep people from requiring acute care or as an effort to save those most ill from the virus.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

Top headlines

Trump issues disaster declaration for Minnesota: President Trump has issued a disaster declaration for Minnesota as the state combats the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Tim Walz had asked Trump to issue the declaration to allow federal funding to flow to the state. Minnesota’s congressional delegation had urged the Trump administration to approve the request.

Grocery store inventories rebounding — except for toilet paper: Shoppers are more likely to find what they want at many Twin Cities grocery stores, now that the initial shopping frenzy ignited by COVID-19 fears has passed.

Therapists forge ahead with telehealth — not knowing if they'll be paid: With the stay-at-home order, mental health care has moved from therapists’ offices to the internet or the phone. Private insurance companies are still figuring out exactly what telehealth services they will cover. But when they do, those changes could stick after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

Minnesotans find Passover meaning in a pandemic: Seder tables across Minnesota will likely be a little bit smaller this year, as families mark the beginning of Passover in the midst of a global pandemic.

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.

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 story and see more COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website:

Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here