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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Walz faces GOP flak as death toll climbs

Apr 10, 2020 05:57AM ● By Editor
Customer Tamara Lundquist (left) wears a mask and stands behind a plexiglass shield on Thursday at Wedge Community Co-op on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. 
Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 10, 2020

Gov. Tim Walz faced some of his first pushback from a top Republican lawmaker over his stay-at-home order as Minnesota experienced its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths.

Still, the DFL governor stood by his actions and said his coronavirus decision-making will continue to be guided by evidence and experts.

“I'm tired of this. I’m frustrated by this. My heart breaks for the people who are worried about their economic well-being,” Walz said during his Thursday conference call. “But you can’t get frustrated, go on a hunch and throw caution to the wind and pretend that our neighbors’ lives are somehow disposable.”

His remarks came after Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, took to Twitter to criticize Walz. “I do not approve of the governor’s unilateral decision to continue the order to shelter at home until May 4. We have to get on with our lives,” Gazelka tweeted.

The latest coronavirus statistics from Thursday: 

  • 1,242 cases via 32,294 tests

  • 50 deaths

  • 293 cases requiring hospitalization

  • 145 people remain in the hospital; 63 in intensive care

  • 675 patients recovered

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

Also on Thursday, Gazelka questioned the Walz administration's projections of needing to prepare for as many as 5,000 intensive care cases eventually. “Why shut MN business down for a NY sized surge?” he wrote.

Asked to respond, Walz told reporters he was working off the best data and guidance available, including state health leaders and Mayo Clinic. And he said he'd make changes if circumstances warrant. “One tweet does not equal dissent,” he said.

Minnesotans struggling financially got some good news Thursday. Steve Grove, Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development, said an additional $600 weekly benefit from the federal government is on its way to nearly 200,000 applicants. It should start to show up this week in Minnesota bank accounts.

Developments from around the state

MN’s first COVID-19 hospital not yet at capacity, prepares for surge in patients

Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul is heading into its third week of strictly caring for patients dealing with COVID-19. Bethesda, Minnesota’s first hospital geared fully toward treating patients with COVID-19, has seen an increase in patients, but isn’t yet at capacity. 

Maria Raines, the chief of nursing at Bethesda, said there's been a lot of community support.

“We actually have had many businesses in the community that are reaching out. They have been providing food for our employees so we have a process set up where that food can be brought into the hospital and we’re able to provide that,” Raines said. “We’ve had outreach of other community agencies wanting to drop off homemade masks.”

There have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff, Raines said, something they are trying to tightly monitor. Bethesda has 35 ICU rooms and 55 medical-surgical beds.

— Peter Cox | MPR News

St. Paul shuts playgrounds, sports courts, skate parks

The city of St. Paul said Thursday it is closing all playgrounds, sports courts – including tennis, basketball, and volleyball – and skate parks in response to the COVID-19 spread.

Parks, trails, open spaces, dog parks, and athletic fields remain open, with restrictions, including social distancing of 6 feet. No pickup games, contact sports, or organized teams are allowed, the city said.

— MPR News Staff

Top headlines

Grocery stores step up safety measures amid COVID-19 outbreak: Minnesota grocers have deployed plastic screens between customers and cashiers, equipped employees with gloves, hand sanitizer and face masks, marked floors to show customers where to stand, and limited how many shoppers can be in a store.

St. Louis Park church uses 'buddy system' so older members may worship: As COVID-19 has pushed services away from in-person and onto the internet, churches are trying to find ways to connect to their membership. Peace Presbyterian decided to pair people up.

MN corrections commissioner says early inmate releases possible for COVID-19: Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell says he is not downplaying the COVID-19 risks for inmates and staff, and is looking for ways to create safer spaces. Schnell says he is considering the release of some prisoners up to six months early to allow more space between inmates.

Businesses shuttered by COVID-19 get sales tax extension: The Minnesota Department of Revenue has extended a grace period for businesses that were ordered to scale back or close entirely to combat the spread of COVID-19. Bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues face restrictions into early May. Sales tax payments for March and April won’t have to be made until May 20. That extra time is granted without penalties or interest.

Traffic deaths spike in Minnesota despite low vehicle volume: The director of the Office of Traffic Safety said that since Gov. Tim Walz issued the stay-at-home order, traffic fatalities in Minnesota have increased about 50 percent and that's at a time that traffic is down roughly 50 percent. Mike Hanson said there may be an incorrect perception that speed limits are not being enforced during the 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 article and see related COVID-!( reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.
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