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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: More restrictions loosen Wednesday

Jun 10, 2020 05:54AM ● By Editor
Ivy Vainio (left), communications co-chair of the Duluth NAACP and executive committee member, hands free face masks to Keith Harris (right) and Derrick Tyler (center) in May.
Photo: Derek Montgomery for MPR News file

From Minnesota Public Radio News - June 10, 2020

Coronavirus restrictions take a major step back Wednesday as Gov. Tim Walz is letting a host of businesses reopen — including indoor bar and restaurant service at limited capacity.

However, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to increase. While there has been a recent, positive trend in hospitalizations and ICU cases, health officials cautioned people not to be complacent.

Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Monday that while it was encouraging to see current hospitalizations stabilize and ICU cases dip, officials remain concerned “because we have seen deaths in healthy, younger adults.”

Because the virus is new, she added, “we’re continuing to be cautious on how we view things.”

While most COVID-19 deaths have involved people in long-term care with underlying health problems, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said one of the people reported in Monday’s death count was a person in their 20s with no underlying health conditions. Officials over the weekend reported another person in their 20s dying from COVID-19.

Here are the latest coronavirus statistics:

  • 28,523 cases confirmed via 354,226 tests

  • 1,217 deaths

  • 3,441 cases requiring hospitalization

  • 455 people remain hospitalized; 199 in intensive care

  • 24,221 patients no longer needing isolation

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

No guidance yet on K-12 school year

Asked about when state K-12 public schools would receive guidance on opening school buildings in the fall, Minnesota health officials said school leaders should still be preparing multiple scenarios to start the school year.

Ehresmann said her agency and the Education Department are in consultation about how the coronavirus could impact the next school year. It could be midsummer before districts learn if they’ll have to continue distance learning or can reopen their buildings.

“Part of the goal is to make sure that there are options available for the fall so that there is time to plan,” she said, “so that we can be nimble if we have to make adaptations given a change in how the virus behaves.

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

Meatpacking hot spots remain

Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.

In southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, where an outbreak hit Worthington’s massive JBS pork plant, about 1 in 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases. 

By Tuesday, there were 1,597 confirmed cases, the same as Monday — the first time in nearly a month without a daily increase.

COVID-19 cases in Nobles County

The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since partially reopenedwith expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.

Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.

An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Tuesday, confirmed cases were at 2,076 with 17 deaths.

Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases continue to climb more than a month after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases then.

On Tuesday, the Health Department reported 526 people have now tested positive in the county. 

While the counts in those counties are high relative to their population, officials say the growth in new cases in those areas appears to be stabilizing.

Mower County in southern Minnesota, another county with a large meatpacking presence, is becoming a hot spot. 

MN counties with the fastest per-capita growth in COVID-19 cases

Mower County has jumped the past few weeks, reporting a total of 537 positive COVID-19 cases now with two deaths as of Tuesday. The Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin reported recently that two meat plants in Austin, Minn., are seeing COVID-19 cases rise rapidly.

Developments from around the state

Four COVID-19 testing sites open in Twin Cities

Four testing centers opened Tuesday in the Twin Cities to test people who were part of George Floyd protests, cleanup efforts or observing the protests for COVID-19. The centers are open for three successive Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from noon to 6 p.m.

  • The Holy Trinity Church on East Lake Street in Minneapolis

  • The Sabathani Community Center on East 38th Street in Minneapolis

  • The New Salem Baptist Church on Bryant Avenue North in Minneapolis

  • The Jimmy Lee Recreation Center on Lexington Parkway in St. Paul

The testing is free and available to anyone — with or without symptoms. Health officials are urging people who may have participated in protests, cleanup and recovery efforts, vigils, neighborhood defense meetings to be tested, and asking people to make appointments for the tests through the Department of Health website.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

Top headlines

Restaurants, other businesses cautiously ready to let customers in: Restaurants and other businesses can open up to indoor service Wednesday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the economy in March. Some say they’re keeping expectations modest, knowing many customers will be cautious about going out.

Long Prairie beef processor among latest swept by COVID-19, despite significant prevention: The sharp rise in cases demonstrates how difficult it is to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease amid the crowded quarters of a meatpacking plant — and in the wider community.

Managing COVID-19 is part of the new business reality for Thief River Falls' DigiKey: The coronavirus has disrupted businesses large and small, for months — shutting down after outbreaks or state orders, and in many cases forcing major changes in how they operate.

As economy continues to reopen, Duluth moves to 'normalize' masks: The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are requiring people to wear masks in stores and other indoor spaces as Minnesota moves to reopen additional sectors of the economy this week. But Duluth is taking a different approach, trying to normalize the habit, rather than mandate it.

Why these Duluthians wear masks: Photographer Derek Montgomery talked to people around the city of Duluth about why they wear their COVID-19 face masks.

To read the original story and see more COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.  

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