(FOX 9) - There are currently 75 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Minnesota, with 38 of those in the intensive care unit, a sharp increase from Wednesday when there were only 54 patients in the hospital and 27 in the ICU, according to the latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health.
There have now been a total of 18 deaths attributed to the virus. The median age of those who have died is 83. Of the people who have died, 11 were residents of congregate care facilities, which includes nursing homes, assisted living and group homes.
Fifty-three more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Minnesota Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 742, however, health officials say that number is still an undercount due to lack of testing.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said 47 congregate care facilities have positive COVID-19 cases. The largest cluster in one of those facilities is eight cases.
More than half of the people confirmed to have the virus have recovered and no longer need to be isolated.
A total of 138 COVID-19 patients, approximately 18.6 percent of Minnesota's cases, have required hospitalization.
According to MDH, the age range for coronavirus patients in the ICU is 25-98 years old.The age range of patients who have died from the virus is 58-95 years old.
There are now confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 56 of Minnesota's 87 counties.
This does not mean, however, that counties that do not have confirmed cases of COVID-19 are safe.
MDH data shows 31 percent of the state's cases as of Wednesday are the result of community transmission. Community transmission cases occur when the individual who tested positive did not travel or have any known contact with someone with COVID-19.
"We should assume it [the coronavirus] is in all of our communities," Malcolm said last week.
LIVE MAP: Coronavirus in Minnesota
As the case total rises, the pressure is on to keep health care workers safe amid a shortage of personal protective equipment.
"If the peak would hit us now, we’d not be prepared," Gov. Walz said of PPE in Minnesota hospitals. "I’ve lit the fuse under everybody I can."
Gov. Tim Walz said last week that based on his work with health department, he predicts that 40 to 80 percent of Minnesotans will get the coronavirus.
Walz acknowledged his stay-home order wasn't universally popular, but added that he was concerned about a "concerted effort" to attack the state's modeling.
"It’s the best modeling I have," Walz told reporters. “I know there will be more deaths. It’s agonizing and I find it nearly unacceptable."
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The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. MDH confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on March 6.
As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbs, state officials have begun enacting drastic measures to reduce the number of places the coronavirus can be spread.
Gov. Walz issued a statewide stay-at-home order for two weeks, effective Friday, March 27 until April 10. He also extended the closure of bars, restaurants, salons, fitness centers and other businesses until May 1 and schools until May 4. Students will participate in distance learning during that time.
People should utilize the state health department's website for information about the stay-home order and not call 911, homeland security director Joe Kelly said.
"We have a simple request that will help us with that important work," Kelly said, pleading with people not to ask questions over phone calls reserved for emergencies. "911 call centers are experiencing an incredible volume of calls with non-emergency questions about the executive orders."
The governor said ordering Minnesotans to stay home pushes the peak of the pandemic in the state out 14 weeks, until around June 28, with hospitals reaching peak capacity around June 7. This will buy the state's health care system more time to expand bed capacity and acquire more ventilators, he said.
Since March 6, Gov. Walz has declared a peacetime state of emergency, canceled or postponed all gatherings of 250 or more people, closed all schools, closed public gathering spaces such as theaters, gyms and bars and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. Walz is expanding unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the pandemic.
The governor also ordered hospitals to stop all elective surgeries and procedures, anything that can be delayed without risking a patient’s health. The order took effect on Monday, March 23 and could last weeks.
MDH has two hotlines for questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hotline for community mitigation (schools, childcare, business) questions is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504.
The hotline for health questions is also open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SICK
MDH says if you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (such as fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore threat and headache) you should stay home for at least seven days and at least three days with without a fever (without fever-reducing medicine).
If you have symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home, MDH said you do not have to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19. Just stay home if you are sick. If your symptoms worsen, if possible, call ahead before going into your health care provider.
"People do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they're in a situation where they'd be able to manage their symptoms at home; since there is no treatment for mild cases, there is no clinical decision that would be made based on the test result," MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said.
MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and others and limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home and away from others if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face throughout the day
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. The CDC recommends staying a minimum of 6 feet away.