7 of Minnesota's coronavirus deaths were long-term care patients as illness spreads to 25 facilities

Minnesota health leaders are putting an even stronger focus on battling the spread of coronavirus at nursing homes as four more people die from COVID-19.

Of the new deaths, all four patients were from what the Minnesota Department of Health calls "congregate care facilities" which includes nursing homes, assisted living, and group homes.

Two of the new deaths were patients at the same facility in Hennepin County, officials said. One was a person in their 50s with underlying conditions. The other deaths in Minnesota have been among patients in their 70s, 80s, or 90s.

In total, seven patients of Minnesota's nine COVID-19 deaths have been from those types of facilities.

At the same time, the Department of Health says there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 25 congregate care facilities in Minnesota. Seven of those facilities have had two to four cases. The rest have only seen one case.

So far, 21 patients and 11 health care workers at those facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus.

"This is a clear point of focus," said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm during Sunday's briefing. "We know the vulnerability of the residents in these care settings and the relative ease of spread if there's not great vigilance around isolation and distancing of residents and stepped up infection control practices -- which where our focus has been."

When a nursing home reports a positive test, Malcolm says that triggers a response from the Minnesota Department of Health, bringing more screening and monitoring to identify further cases.

In total, Minnesota has had 504 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the outbreak.