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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Return to normalcy will require more testing

Apr 14, 2020 05:35AM ● By Editor
People walk and bike around Lake Como on Saturday.  Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 14, 2020

Minnesota has tested nearly 40,000 people for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. But before the state begins returning to normal, Gov. Tim Walz said a major increase in testing will be necessary. 

"We need to be testing 40,000 a week or more,” Walz said, adding that the increase in testing would also need to come with greater tracing and isolation of people infected with the coronavirus. 

Walz said it's too early to tell if the stay-at-home order will last beyond May 4, but said the state was readying a "big push" on testing that would coincide with "rolling back into the economy."

The governor said his administration was working on guidance for outdoor activities, including golf and fishing. 

Here are the latest coronavirus statistics from Monday:

  • 1,650 cases via 38,427 tests

  • 70 deaths

  • 361 hospitalizations

  • 157 people remain in the hospital; 74 in intensive care

  • 52 years old is the median case age

  • 842 patients recovered

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

Officials continue to caution the virus is much more widespread than what the daily updates indicate, with yet-undiscovered cases potentially higher than 150,000.

Also Monday, Walz extended his “peacetime emergency” order for another 30 days, through May 13, allowing him to take executive actions to deal with the coronavirus. The order extension drew a rebuke from some House Republicans, who say they’ll try to overturn it this week in the Legislature.A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status

Developments from around the state

Cleveland-Cliffs to idle northern MN mine over pandemic market shock

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. said Monday it plans to temporarily idle Northshore Mining in northeastern Minnesota. The company plans to temporarily idle production at Northshore by mid-April with a planned restarted by August.

Cliffs said it will work down current inventory levels from the mine and continue to ship iron ore to fulfill its agreements with steel customers.

In a statement, CEO Lourenco Goncalves said the Cleveland-based company has evaluated market conditions “and the extraordinary disruptions in manufacturing and steel production in North America due to the impact of the COVID-19 market shock.”

Northshore Mining officials said about 470 employees will be laid off, with the remaining 100 employees kept on to maintain the yard and dock crews to load vessels, KBJR-TV reported. The company will also idle Tilden Mine in Michigan by the end of April, with a planned restart in July.

— The Associated Press

Inmates at Hennepin Co. jail, Willow River prison test positive for COVID-19

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office says the jail has detected its first confirmed case of COVID-19. 

In a news release, sheriff's office spokesperson Rob Allen said a man exhibiting symptoms of the virus was booked into the jail last Friday. The man was tested and isolated pending the results of the test. Allen said after the man tested positive, he was notified about his status and was released to isolate at home. 

Allen said the jail had already implemented safety precautions to prevent an outbreak including suspending visits, training jail staff on sanitation and the use of personal protective gear and isolating symptomatic inmates or those who may have been exposed to the virus. 

The state Department of Corrections said on Monday an inmate at the Willow River correctional facility has also tested positive for the coronavirus. 

As of Sunday, 11 inmates at the Moose Lake prison have tested positive. Moose Lake had the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in a Minnesota adult prison. Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has said the release of some state prisoners because of the coronavirus could happen as early as this week.

— Brandt Williams | MPR News and The Associated Press

Top headlines

In a pandemic, ‘gig’ workers can fall through the social safety net: Many workers who have made their living in recent years in the so-called “gig economy,” including driving for companies like Uber, are facing difficult choices during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not yet clear how states, including Minnesota, are going to make sure these workers receive the unemployment benefits they were promised by Congress.

Coronavirus aid coming to Minnesota tribal nations — they just don't know how much: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside $8 billion to help tribal nations respond to the coronavirus pandemic, but it offered little direction on how to distribute the money. As the pandemic moves into tribal lands and as casino closures strain communities, the U.S. Treasury Department is still collecting feedback on how to disperse the money.

Immigrant families face complex challenges with Minnesota’s distance learning: Many immigrant and refugee families are navigating distance learning while trying to find the right support needed to succeed online. Some have limited English proficiency, no formal education or internet access, and even lack the understanding of how to work on a computer.

Legislature to act on new coronavirus bill with others in works: The Legislature has already passed three bills with financial help for health providers, first responders and small businesses. The latest plan is more policy focused.

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 more COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News  website.

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