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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Officials monitor outbreaks as death toll rises to 134

Apr 20, 2020 05:52AM ● By Editor
Photo: MPR

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 20, 2020

As the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 climbed over the weekend, officials in Minnesota and neighboring states continued to monitor several outbreaks of particular concern.

Minnesota health officials announced Sunday that 13 more people in the state have died from COVID-19, bringing the statewide death toll to 134.

Meanwhile, 143 new confirmed cases were reported Sunday — the third consecutive day with at least 140 new cases in Minnesota. The overall confirmed case total now stands at 2,356, though officials say continued limitations on testing mean the actual number is much higher.

Cases have now been confirmed in 76 of 87 counties in Minnesota, with Marshall and Morrison counties reporting their first cases on Sunday.

There was a continued spike in cases in southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, from 36 on Saturday to 60 on Sunday. A pork processing plant in Worthington is at the center of an outbreak in that area.

About half of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Minnesota have recovered to the point of no longer needing to be in isolation.

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

The latest coronavirus statistics as of Sunday:

  • 2,356 cases via 45,716 tests, up from 2,213 / 44,368 on Saturday

  • 134 total deaths, up from 121 on Saturday

  • 574 total cases have required hospitalization, up from 561 the previous day

  • 228 people remain in the hospital, down from 239 on Saturday; 116 in ICUs, up from 111 the previous day

  • 1,160 patients recovered to the point of no longer needing to be in isolation, up from 1,118 on Saturday

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

Of the 13 new deaths reported Sunday, eight of the patients were in the Twin Cities metro area. Two were in Winona County and the others were residents of Mille Lacs, Olmsted and St. Louis counties. State officials said all were in their 60s or older, and 10 of the 13 people who died were living in long-term care facilities.

Meanwhile, authorities in Minnesota and surrounding states were tracking outbreaks of COVID-19 this weekend, including at the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington and an assisted-living facility near the Twin Cities that had to relocate its residents.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported Sunday that at least 26 employees at the JBS plant had tested positive for COVID-19

New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day
New COVID-19 related deaths reported in Minnesota each day
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

And state health officials said more than 40 residents of Meridian Manor in Wayzata were moved to other facilities on Saturday amid an outbreak there. The nonprofit that manages Meridian Manor said 18 residents had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday; MDH said some staff members also were affected.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to increase in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area, with more than 1,300 total cases reported in Minnehaha County as of Sunday. The now-closed Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls has been a national hot spot for coronavirus, with more than 600 employees testing positive.

And the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota increased dramatically over the weekend, in large part due to an outbreak tied to a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Grand Forks. 

COVID-19 cases per capita in Minnesota counties
COVID-19 cases per capita in Minnesota counties
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

More than 100 confirmed cases have been linked to the LM Wind Power plant in Grand Forks. LM Wind Power, which is owned by General Electric, has closed the facility for a minimum of 14 days. And the state of North Dakota has quarantined all 900 employees who work there. At least eight of the employees who have tested positive are from Minnesota.

"We were hoping to avoid something like this. But we've planned for it and prepared for it," Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown said at a Saturday news conference. "We have identified and are isolating the problem and are doing everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 so we don't overwhelm our health care system."

Developments from around the state

Golf courses, marinas reopen in Minnesota

Golf courses, outdoor shooting ranges, bait shops and marinas were allowed to reopen over the weekend in Minnesota, following Gov. Tim Walz's decision to ease COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions.

Customers and employees of those businesses still must comply with social distancing rules.

Cindy Bisek owns and operates the Red Wing Marina along the Mississippi River. She said Saturday that people are already looking to put boats in the water.

“I think everyone is just chomping at the bit to get outside and enjoy being outside. And obviously, if you have boat in the water, that’s one place where you can be somewhat quarantined with your family," she said.

Ramsey County opened two golf courses Saturday, and expects to open three more by Wednesday. Driving ranges are opening, too. 

Mark McCabe is Ramsey County’s parks and recreation director. He said there are many precautions in place to keep people a safe distance apart.

"We are spacing out tee times, with a minimum of 10 minutes between each tee time. Our clubhouses are not open. We will allow one rider per golf cart," he said.

Golf carts, golf balls and flag sticks will be regularly sanitized. Multiple riders will be allowed on golf carts only if the players are from the same household. 

Prohibitions continue on camping and some other outdoor activities.

— Martin Moylan | MPR News

Some seasonal property owners disobeying stay-at-home order

Earlier this month the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office offered to check on seasonal properties, if owners stayed away while the state is under a stay-at-home order because of COVID-19.

Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons said a few people have taken the county up on the offer. Deputies have checked about 20 homes so far out of an estimated 8,000 seasonal properties in the county. 

But he said many seasonal residents are returning.

"Whether it's to check on it as a result of it being vacant all winter, or to just spend some time up here away from the metro or wherever they're from, I think that is happening," he said.

Fitzgibbons said local health systems are concerned they won't be able to handle the influx of seasonal residents if those visitors become ill with COVID-19. 

He noted that the county economy is dependent on those seasonal property owners.

"It's part of what makes Otter Tail so great. But the message coming from the CDC and public health is just hold off for now," he said. "And once this epidemic passes we encourage you to come up and stay a long time."

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Top headlines

Small businesses race to get financial help amid pandemic — but will it be enough to survive? Small businesses across Minnesota have been approved for $9 billion dollars in paycheck protection plan loans. Now, they’re trying to figure out how they can best use the money to try to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

Officials say at least 26 workers at SW Minnesota pork processing plant have COVID-19: Minnesota health officials said Sunday that more than two dozen employees of the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington have tested positive for COVID-19.

Residents moved from Wayzata assisted living facility amid outbreak of COVID-19: More than 40 residents of a Wayzata, Minn., assisted living facility were moved to other facilities Saturday amid an outbreak of COVID-19 affecting residents and staff members.

Twins 'Homer Hankies' to be used to make thousands of face masks: Minnesota Twins "Homer Hankies" left over from the 2019 season now are being used to make thousands of face masks.

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

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