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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Estimates suggest state may have more than 130K cases

Apr 11, 2020 06:07AM ● By Editor
To curb the spread of COVID-19, signs are placed on the floor and at checkout lines to encourage social distancing at Wedge Community Co-op on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. 
Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 11, 2020

The Minnesota Health Department has reported 57 deaths and 1,336 cases of COVID-19 confirmed via testing as the state enters another weekend of stay-at-home orders.

However, health officials believe that the limited testing for COVID-19 could be identifying as little as 1 percent of all cases.

“Multiply the confirmed cases by 100,” Stefan Gildemeister, the state’s health economist, said Friday. “That’s where we expect to be.” That puts the high estimate at 133,600 cases in the state.

Gildemeister said officials arrived at that estimate by looking at the number of reported deaths from COVID-19, which are much more noticeable than the number of cases, then working backward to estimate “how many infected patients does it really take” to get that number of deaths.

Thousands of Minnesotans experiencing flu-like symptoms haven't been able to get COVID-19 tests amid a national shortage of testing materials.

The worst coronavirus outcomes are coming in congregate care facilities like nursing homes. Of the 57 people who’ve died to date, 36 were living in group care facilities; 82 such facilities in Minnesota now have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

More of the latest coronavirus statistics from Friday:

  • 33,894 tests completed

  • 317 total hospitalizations

  • 143 people remain in the hospital; 64 in ICUs

  • 15 percent of cases in health care workers

  • 19 percent in congregate living settings

  • 732 patients recovered

The state Senate's top Republican, Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, continued his criticism of Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order extension and the overall scope of the governor's plans to expand hospital facilities prior to an expected COVID-19 surge.

On Friday, Gazelka's criticism focused on central Minnesota businesses' worries over the order’s long-term economic damage.

“The resorts are scared because prior to this three-and-a-half additional weeks they were scared about the money not coming in, and now they're very, very concerned," he said.

Walz is standing by his decisions: “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 Thursday. “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.”

Developments from around the state

Sheltering in place, surrounded by floodwaters

National Guard soldiers are walking levees this weekend in the northwestern Minnesota community of Oslo, where the Red River is expected to reach a flood crest just below record levels.

Oslo is surrounded by a ring levee, and now by miles of water that covers all roads into the community. Mayor Erika Martens said about 220 people are sheltering in place. 

"We feel safe, we're good. We don't panic," she said. "This is not something new for us."

What is new this year is the fear of COVID-19. Martens said floods are usually a time when the community comes together. 

State Highway 220 near Oslo Minn remains closed by flood waters
Spring flooding frequently closes the roads to and from Oslo, Minn. This view from April 2019 shows State Highway 220 north of Oslo.  Photo: Courtesy of MnDOT 2019

"Where you get to know people in town that you typically wouldn't, and you see the new people and you get together — and there's none of that," she said. "No church, no nothing. It's tough. This year's tough."

Martens said the Guard brings mail and supplies in over flooded roads. 

"We couldn't do it without them, especially this year. Usually we have quite a few volunteers to walk the levees just to make sure, check things out. We don't have any of that this year," she said. "Nobody wants to come out, and you can't blame them."

The floodwaters are forecast to slowly recede in the coming week.

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Distilleries around MN step up to help supply hand sanitizer

Several distilleries around Minnesota have shifted their production to making hand sanitizer during the coronavirus crisis. Vikre Distillery in Duluth is one of several in the state making hand sanitizer to help supply the much-needed product.

The Duluth distillery on Friday finished making an 8,000-gallon batch. Co-owner Joel Vikre said after they ran out of the first 1,000 gallons, institutions like hospitals and police departments told his staff they needed a lot more. 

“We just created an order form to get the sense of what the demand would be, and it kind of went nuts,” Vikre said. “The thing that strikes me is a crisis happens, and the normal supply chains, they break down surprisingly easily."

Friday morning, a line of people waiting to fill up bottles with sanitizer stretched for nearly three blocks. Vikre said they should have enough to distribute for several more days.

11 Wells Spirits in St. Paul is planning to give away hand sanitizer for personal use from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday; find details on their Facebook page.

— Dan Kraker | MPR News

Edina Art Fair rescheduled for August

The Edina Art Fair, usually Minnesota's first major art fair of the season, is moving to August because of the new coronavirus. 

The art fair, which can attract some 300,000 visitors, will now run from Aug. 21-23. 

Organizers of the event say that almost all of the 280 artists scheduled for the original date in early June are still planning to be there. 

— Euan Kerr | MPR News

Top headlines

Hospitals cut pay, furlough workers to ease COVID-19 financial blow: Across the state, hospitals are making cost-cutting measures to shoulder the blow of a temporary ban on elective surgeries and procedures. Together, hospitals are predicting a $3 billion loss over the next three months. The state’s largest private employer Mayo Clinic is instituting across the board pay cuts and furloughs to shoulder a projected $3 billion loss this year.

3M says a New Jersey company is price gouging New York officials over N95 masks: 3M has sued a New Jersey firm that allegedly engaged in extreme price gouging for N95 respirator masks that can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Minneapolis officials say too many are ignoring posted virus signs: City officials may get tougher on people who ignore social distancing rules. However, Minneapolis police are not eager to issue fines.

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.

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 articles and see related COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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